The Queen is seated on her throne. And she ain’t going anywhere.
Celebrating her 18th year in the music industry, Philippines’ “Queen of R&B”, and the only one eligible for the title, Kyla makes her unflinching comeback in the recording sphere with a brand new album entitled “The Queen of R&B”, proclaiming point-black, straight out that she is nothing short of the acclaimed title, Queen.
The new record has been launched on Sunday, 15th of April at the Eastwood Mall Open Park. Prior to this, two back-to-back singles have already been released between January and February: “Only Gonna Love You”, which features international rapper, REQ, and “Fix You and Me”, both written and produced by Jonathan Manalo of Star Music.
Kyla is better than ever, more feisty than ever. Her artistry, more exquisite than ever. Her voice has reached an exceptional degree of maturity and even freedom.
I believe this is her most eclectic album by far—offering a variety of styles, sounds and feels; new and classic sounding R&B cuts, upbeat pop tunes; funky, reggae, and soft rock vibes; sad contemporary ballads, heartrending duets, and her exceptional revivals. All of these are harnessed by her distinctively soulful vocals. It feels like her creative muscles have been stretched out flexibly and extensively in the design of this new work.
I was just over the moon when I woke up that Sunday morning, seeing that the album was already available to stream and download online. I have to confess that I had to skip my pre-church morning devotions just to listen to the new tracks! Since then I have not stopped playing and savouring the tasteful mix of songs.
The themes are very universal and highly relatable: the pleasures and misadventures in love and romance. It’s for the happily in love, the kilig-deprived, the hopeful, the shattered, the thankful, the bitter, the friend-zoned, and of course, the I’m-right-here-waiting types. Just your classic, run-of-the-mill Filipino love language wrapped in beautiful music.
Here are my thoughts. The track order is according to my most favourite:
1) “Only Gonna Love You” is a terrific take on pop-reggaeton music, with very strong flares of hip-hop and rap. I happen to enjoy Latin rhythms lately, and this track was successful in combining the Latin dance sound with Kyla’s solid R&B vocals, and grabbing harmonies, that she delivers in a very tantalising and sultry fashion. Her vocal acrobatics particularly towards the end were simply breathtaking. Gah, that descending F5 run, and the high, melodic finish. Are you kidding me? Although I can’t say the last bit was in full whistle register, but the C6 definitely is (or has to be). We don’t get to hear her sing in this register all the time! Moreover, the Remix version was sparkling; the Motown mix was quite delightful; the F5 belts are daring, and the melismas are strictly on point in this one!
2) “What If I”, for some reason, takes me back to the classic, late90s-early00s R&B sound in terms of rhythm, instrumentation, chord progressions, dynamics and harmonies. It felt like listening to Way To Your Heart (2000) tracks all over again. It brought me the classic Kyla, which was heart-warming and thrilling at the same time. The song has a smooth, head-bobbing flow; it’s the kind of song you will play, finish listening to, then put on repeat, and not get sick of. Catchy melody and an addictive What-if-I hook; splendid texturised and counterpointing harmonies, and almost old school R&B riffs and runs. This piece is so easy to enjoy!
3) “Tayo Parin” has a strong Pinoy pop quality to it, that resembles the sound of Star Records divas during late 90s and early 2000s. It’s fun, catchy, sweet-sounding and dancey. The most notable aspect of this song is the numerous chord changes. Yes, numerous. Because who pitch-modulates up to 5 times in ONE freaking song? You’re out of your mind! This topples Beyonce’s 4 semitones in “Love On Top”. As if four was not enough! But Kyla made it a possibility. This would be a very challenging song to sing, that’s for sure.
4) “Pangarap Na Dumating” is the luscious pop-rock cherry of this album. This beautiful and bittersweet song highlights Kyla’s ability to stylise a simple pop tune, sprinkle her soulful zest all over it and make it extra-special, and most importantly, hers. It is that simple yet musically intricate principle that makes her sound so unique and riveting. This pop-rock and soul fusion is definitely a treat!
5) “Fix You and Me” leads us back to Kyla’s classic soulful R&B ballads. This song stretches out Kyla’s full vocal capacity, and it probably has the most daring runs amongst her originals. Also, it feels like this is Kyla’s best “entry” in the hugot song bank of the Philippines. And it’s a formidable one!
6) “Proper Heartbreak” is without a doubt an outstanding feature of this album. It highlights her vocal expression; all the music is subdued, and the spotlight is turned on her voice, which becomes the main instrument or driving force of the song. You can hear every single breath; every single vibrato is an unheard cry. Her voice colours every nuance of the character trying to cope with conflicting feelings of resentment and acceptance, and the pain of letting go. Kyla captured her vulnerability and fragmented heart. This is the same approach, and the same area she taps into in the acoustic version of “Fix You and Me”, but just with a more hopeful ring to it (I also need to mention that her intro runs for this acoustic mix is my most favourite).
7) “Talk About Us” is raw and bare R&B. Charming melody, feel-good rhythm; and the harmonic layers, especially on Kyla’s bits are irresistibly stunning. However, a part of me was hoping that the duet was done with Jay-R (Man, that would’ve been like “Back in Time”, part 2!). Nevertheless, I must say that Iñigo Pascual did a superb job in this track, and actually took me by surprise. Another track you can put on repeat.
8) “Sa Iyo”. Two words when I heard this song: artistic explosion. I was really looking forward to this. When I heard the first few bars of the song, I said to myself, “This got to be Jay Durias stuff!” It just had that distinctive Jay Durias/Southborder vibe because of the glassy, drone-y synth and the sophisticated, unpredictable chord progressions. The design of the melody really fits the lyrics and the aimed musical flow of the song. What surprised me is that I didn’t get any complex harmonies and movements, which was expected from these two brilliant artists. Instead, they gave me placid. They gave me subdued. They gave me chaste. They touched my soul. So much respect.
9) “Pagdating ng Kailanman” will have to be my favourite Tagalog ballad. It is a very basic case of the melody and the lyrics joining together in paradisical marriage, and having a truthfully happy ending. The instrumentation and arrangement are rapturous. Most importantly, I believe this song also highlights the very best of Kyla’s vocal inflections, runs, dynamics and stylistic outpouring.
10) “Mahal Kita Pero Konti Na Lang” and “Huling Muli” will have to be the next Teleserye theme songs on TFC, I swear! They have a strong Filipino flavour and will surely cater to the Pinoy senti- taste. However, these ballads are done with absolute finesse, both in terms of musicality and expression. The quality’s a bit higher. The piano-string accompaniment plus the rolling cymbals are all just perfect. Her hums and vocal flips can pacify me even in my most disturbed state. Her belt bits are brave and full-hearted.
11) “My Melody” was fun and melodious. This brought in a substantial dose of soul, reggae and funk, which was in full glory in Kyla’s Journey (2014) album. The husky resonance in her head-mix-falsetto areas is plain intoxicating. Moreoever, her low notes are too alluring to be ignored. This is also well displayed in “What If I”, “Fix You and Me”, and “Pangarap na Dumating”. Test of a true soul diva!
12) Her remarkable revivals, “On the Wings of Love” and “Till I Met You” have put her back on the charts, and helped reiterate that Kyla is truly not your ordinary Filipino singer. She has taken these Filipino favourites on a different level with artistic intricacy and authority that have exceeded many of our expectations.
13) I have been a constant fan and lover of Kyla’s Himig Handog entry duets, “Monumento” (with Kris Lawrence), and “Tayo Na Lang Kasi” (with Jason Dy). These songs have elevated the artistic weight and standards of Filipino-composed music. I am hoping that Kyla will be given another chance to sing a solo entry in the coming song festivals, like her winning piece “Salbabida” for Philpop back in 2014.
This album is a 10 for me, and has absolutely exceeded my personal expectations. I have waited a long time for this comeback album, and I am very grateful that Kyla continues to make beautiful and authentic Filipino music that speaks to generations, and inspires creativity and artistic ingenuity, especially in new and aspiring Filipino artists.
She is a true gift, a cultural gem that will continue to shine brighter and brighter in the years to come; and her music, insurmountable.
All hail the Queen!