Yuna is more than the sum of her influences. The semi-popular Malaysian singer-songwriter says she’s influenced by Feist, Coldplay, and Bob Dylan, but she certainly doesn’t sound anything like them. (About the most she has in common with them is that they all make music and have good pop sensibilities.)
That’s a good thing. Chapters has a unique air to it, despite its existence in the over-saturated R&B marketplace right now. Despite that, many of her songs offer original takes on the genre. Crush (which features a soulful Usher performance), has a chorus that plays with staccato elements influenced by reggae. Yuna’s performance on Your Love would fit well in a Bond film (I’d happily lobby for her to sing a Bond track, actually).
Perhaps it’s her background, but Yuna’s music has an ever-so-subtle hint of world music inspiration that I really like. It’s R&B that isn’t afraid to treat its audience as intelligent beings who are willing to take their time to digest something. The music is a multi-layered affair, more complex than what most of Yuna’s peers are doing.
I lost count of how many musical layers I heard in Poor Heart, which has a chorus that’s as intricate and dense as anything in electropop’s busy genre. It’s also a masterclass in songwriting: the chorus takes elements of the verse, amplifies them, and adds new textures and sonic qualities to create a whole new hook – even though the basic gist remains the same.
I think the best track on the record is Time. Yuna uses the final track on the record to tell her story and explain how she got into music as a child. It’s a song that’s meant to be encouraging, particularly for aspiring musicians and creative people. And Yuna is so sincere about it that you can’t help but be swept up in it. (It doesn’t hurt that the hooks are so great.) When the song is over, you’re shocked the album is over, and ready to hit play again and start the whole thing over.
Chapters is the third album from Yuna, and her work gets consistently more mature and impressive on every record. And like she notes, “it takes time” to become a master and get taken seriously by your peers. It’s an immensely rewarding album, but it still feels like she’s just getting started. I can’t wait to hear what comes next from her.