J. Sariah is a singer songwriter born and raised in Macon, Georgia but has lived in several places including Long Island, New York, Cardiff in Wales and Houston, Texas. She began writing songs in her teenage years, which helped her cope with difficult experiences. This led to winning the Director’s Award in the Paramount Songwriting Contest at the age of 15. From there, she began working on songwriting projects with her cousin Airplane B, the founder of AMG (Airplane Music Group).
She describes her music as Neo-Soul, which encompasses R&B, hip hop, soul and gospel, and cites her favourite artists as Aaliyah, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Chris Brown and Ashanti, amongst others. Her debut EP, The Path, was released in March this year and The Journey is her first full album consisting of eleven tracks, featuring songs produced by Houston duo 3Bubble & J. Gray of Live From The Pentagon Entertainment and DJ Izzy Ill, idreaminstereo and Dorothy Chan of Barron Studios in Houston, Texas.
Opening track Friendzone is a brilliant start to the album. It’s a slinky, soulful piece of R&B with an instantly addictive vocal melody. J. Sariah gives a compelling vocal performance, her voice distinctive and easy on the ear which bodes well for her commercial potential. The track is superbly arranged, with a wealth of subtle detail in everything from the intricate beat to vocal doubling on certain lines.
Lyrically, it’s about someone hiding their desire by keeping them a friend: “In the friend zone, I know you want me, but you’ve got me in the friendzone…..”. With its catchy title hook and slick production, it’s a song that Rihanna or Beyoncé would be proud to have in their canon, and a perfect choice for a single.
Second track Shooting Star is another fine song, this one more languid and romantic with a jazzy chord progression and a deep dub bass. J. Sariah’s natural style of mixing rhythmic, fast paced vocal melodies on the verse, then switching to longer, anthemic melodies on the chorus is very effective. The hook grabs you on the first listen, lyrically about dreaming of being with someone they’re in love with: “I’m wishin’ on a shooting star, for you and me to be making history forever….”.
Are You Ready is based on a simple but effective guitar figure which forms the bedrock for another well crafted and soulful R&B song featuring some lush vocal harmonies and cutting edge production, especially towards the end. Track four, Run It, is a sharp contrast with a harder edged sound driven by a low-end synth melody. The lyrics are a little edgier too, describing the enjoyment of flirtation and seduction with an alpha male: “That smirk is worth a thousand words playing on repeat….”.
Overthinking is one of the more emotional, reflective songs on the album. It’s a poignant and sensitively performed expression of something many will relate to, thinking obsessively about a relationship and its issues. The chorus is clever, both highly memorable but reflecting the repeating inner turmoil she’s feeling: “Am I thinking about it, thinking about it too much?“.
Sixth song Revenge is another emotive and honest track that deals with a handling negative situation, this time a cheating lover. The perfectly executed vocal harmonies makes this one stand out musically. The lyrics are barbed and pull no punches: “What goes around comes and I’ll make sure it happens…who knew karma could be such a friend? Revenge…..” The following Reflection also wears its heart on its sleeve, an escape from her relationship issues into hedonism as captured by the opening lines: “Wasted, drinks on me…”. It’s another highly relatable, memorable song that packs an emotional punch due to its lyrical openness and honesty.
Break History is a real departure from her signature sound, this one with a bit of a rock vibe. Starting with some mellifluous lead electric guitar, it bursts into an infectious pop/rock fusion that shows her Beyoncé influence. Her vocals on this one are particularly good, singing near the top of her range on the anthemic chorus. Lyrically, its another positive message about putting the past behind you.
H202 is a return to her more usual super-catchy R&B style with a particularly good groove, a love song with an interesting and inventive metaphor: “Let the rain fall, like a waterfall of never ending love into a sea, you’re the water and I’m the air, the only elements we need….”. Another potential single for the future.
Reckless Love starts with a haunting, evocative piano/vibes melody that made me think of the composer Saint Saens. It progresses into a beat with a tempo so laid back it’s almost vertical, setting the scene for a smooth-as-honey lead vocal with strong lyrics: “You’re like a man in the mirror for me, you reflect everything I need….”. The section where its just her voice with the intro melody sends shivers up the spine.
The closing Dutty Wine is a great way to finish the album, featuring a guest male vocalist. Their voices complement each other perfectly, alternating and then combining. It’s a fiendishly catchy track with a slick R&B groove, an openly sexy expression of sensual desire that will be hugely popular on the dancefloor. It completes the emotional journey of the album, which J. Sariah says is about the ups and downs of tempestuous young love.
Overall, this is a consistently excellent modern pop album that balances commercial appeal with authentic artistic expression. She has a gift for writing about the issues that affect most of us with insight and brutal honesty. Containing several potential singles and not a weak moment on the whole album, it’s surely just a matter of time before this gifted artist explodes onto the world stage. J. Sariah has the potential to be as big as her musical heroes and heroines.
VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10