|Album Review: Sam Dew - MOONLIT FOOLS|
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The debut album from Chicago singer-songwriter Sam Dew is an atmospheric journey through studio mastery and the delivery of emotion through music that gives new meaning to the name, Rhythm & Blues. If this is your first time hearing Sam Dew’s name, you may have heard his work before through his collaboration with household names like Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Mary J. Blige, but make no mistake, his solo-work is uniquely his own, and can stand up against anything that challenges it. In 2015, he signed to RCA Records, and released his debut EP, Damn Sue. Since then, he continued to collaborate with chart-topping artists while refining his own style. MOONLIT FOOLS by Sam Dew, is a hard-hitting R&B record with a distinct darkness, featuring distinguished collaborators like Jack Antonoff (St. Vincent), DJ Dahi (Drake), and Sounwave (Kendrick Lamar), out now on RCA Records.
The album begins on a cover of an R&B classic, “Now That We Found Love” by The O’Jay’s (which has also received other notable covers groups like Third World, and Heavy D & The Boyz). “NTWFL” reimagines the original track from a street-bound love song, into a bass-heavy, emotion-driven ballad. Dew’s cover amplifies the dark tones and insecurity of the lyrics, fitting perfectly with the shadowy production style seen on the rest of the album. This new iteration is a refreshing revival of a time tested R&B classic, and a great addition to its legacy. Released as a single, “NTWFL” has an accompanying music video that is equal parts murky and mystifying. Directed by Young Replicant, this eye-catching enigma is an enthralling event that is a definite must watch.
MOONLIT FOOLS glows bright thanks to a trio of music videos for the songs “NTWFL”, "GONE" and "DJ" directed by Young Replicant. The three vignettes are linked together with stunning visual production, and themes of communication, desire, and entanglement. According to Dew from a PAPER Magazine interview, “these three songs are the naïveté of desire — an inevitable fumble and the fight for atonement that follows.” These dream-like music videos are cinematic wonders, and beautifully capture the essence of their songs, and a great addition to the overall work of the album. “DJ” is easily one of the catchiest tracks on MOONLIT FOOLS, one of the ones you’ll keep finding yourself coming back to. The chorus is hypnotically beautiful, showcasing Dew’s vocal range as he starts low and travels to great heights.
“(RAP SH*T)” is something completely out of left field - one of the freshest sounds of 2021. It’s heavy on poppy MIDI instrumentation, and random samples, giving it an easy-going ‘bedroom’ vibe, inventive beat that’s fun to shimmy along to. Lyrically and thematically, MOONLIT FOOLS is pretty heavy; and the more light-hearted, upbeat nature of this track helps round off the work. It’ll work great on your Summer cruising playlists.
MOONLIT FOOLS is definitely an album about love, but not always about the good side of it. Many of the lyrics on the album point toward the insecurities that many feel, and the darkness of the music videos exemplify that everything is not always bright inside of a relationship. “To Your Face” is an honest expression where Dew showcases his feelings of doubt, over a surprisingly happy instrumentation. The song is easy-going but goes over a very hard conversation to have. It’s also here that we find another reference to R&B history with the lyric “sugar, honey, iced tea,” an expression adopted by several other musicians throughout their time. The following track, “THINKING OF YOU”, is the flip-side to that feeling of doubt, in the version of a lofi love song about infatuation and the thoughts that come along with it. It’s stripped down to not much more than Dew’s voice covered in vocal effects, and a simple, but meaningful drum beat. It’s not an upfront expression of infatuation, but more so a simple reflection of what goes through one’s head when seeing the one you love.
The album ends on “MAKE IT KNOWN” - a slow-paced, soft-soothing plea for acceptance. The album is incredibly diverse, while keeping a cohesive aesthetic. It’s a dark and intense work about the many facets of love, and the good and bad feelings contained within that. Sam Dew’s voice is impeccable, and shows something new on each track. He’s laid-back on “KILLERS”, soulful on “DJ” and downright transcendent on “NTWFL”. Produced mainly by Jack Antonoff, this album has a distinct aesthetic, and is quite the spectacle to behold. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of the laid-back nature of R&B, or love songs in general, MOONLIT FOOLS has a little something for everybody.
MOONLIT FOOLS is available for purchase now via RCA Records.
Photo by Christian Lanza