If I meet Janette King I have one question: how did you do it? According to Bandcamp on June 25th 2021 she released What We Lost which acts as her debut album. The art of the debut is complicated. A great debut can set a high bar artists end up running from (or towards) the rest of their career. In years of listening observing and writing I’ve found the best debut albums are the ones that sell you all the future possibilities. King did this better than anyone this year.
The Montreal vocalist is great at electronic pop dance r&b. You’ll hear that on the first song Airplane as well as the bubbly groove of the title track (both produced by Jordan Esau). Done the wrong way dance music can feel groundless. The music moves, the voice floats over it. We all dance but the heart of it doesn’t matter or might not even exist. King sidesteps this simply by going from track one to track two. While Airplane establishes the electronic dance pulse that runs through What We Lost the next song You Don’t Love Me could live beautifully on a 90s R&B mixtape. The pace is slow but has an early Aaliyah bounce to it. Her voice is rich, textured and soaks every available bit of the sonic environment.
Did I mention that Janette King produced one of my favorite songs on the album? That’s right. Another one of those gorgeous soul songs where she vocal doubles her hum and hits every note in unforgettable fashion. The song is called Unconditional, and the hook is “Let go of expectation and live inside the moment. Where love is not so fragile, it’s unconditional.” It’s a mesmerizing idea and par for the course here. King delivers a debut album that isn’t deep but isn’t shallow. Every song has something to say, personal whether it is grateful or angry (“Watching the police murder people that look like me. Over and over for years and they tellin’ us that we are free.”—Change) or jovial.
Strong shout out to DijahSB on Cool Me Down, no one fits that song better. DijahSB has a real knack for delivering honest bars without sacrificing an innate sense of joy and Cool Me Down gets the best of both parties skill sets. What We Lost mixes ideas that usually (I thought) contradict one another. It’s one of the most polished pop albums I’ve heard this year, as danceable and catchy as anything you’ll find. While doing that it’s strikingly honest, every thought personal lyrically poignant and soulful. Not in a tearjerk way, soul music is my favorite thing because when it’s done well it stops time in a way you just can’t explain to other people. It goes beyond the elements of creation into something as inebriating as falling in love, as solemn as burying a mentor. Those moments in your life where nothing else happens. Janette King can do that and more. How did she do it?! I need to ask.
Stream then download What We Lost below: