|Album Review: Danielle Blaiq - The NOW Project|
The NOW Project
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New York CIty, NY
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Danielle Blaiq (pronounced "black"), a Brooklyn born singer, author, and actress who has been creating engaging works of art for over a decade, pours her heart into her latest release: a tender concept album called The NOW Project. The five-track EP is an absorbing suite of slow-burning pieces that examines the complicated love affair that arises between an insightful young woman and a man who's unable to fully commit to their professional-turned-personal relationship.
Instead of drawing audiences in with a chapter-and-verse narrative filled with sticky details and theatrical interludes, Danielle uses The NOW Project to present snapshots of the emotional roller-coaster that our heroine experiences over the course of a tricky relationship. While telling the story of a professional relationship that morphs into a sexually-charged romance might seem like a lot of ground to cover in just five tracks (and it absolutely is), the EP benefits greatly from its brevity as it gives the album a unified sound.
Album opener "NOW" is an unguarded and stirring offering that ebbs and flows with emotions and typifies the start of the couple's intense bond. Crystal-like synthesizers, swelling strings, and distant percussion accent Blaiq's sexy rasp as she confesses completely just how deeply she has given herself over to this new affair. Suggestive of love-making, the song's intensity builds and crests in waves and allows our siren's smoky vocals to simmer in a breathy "nibble on your ear" register one moment then skyrocket towards the ceiling in ecstasy during the next. "Underwater" adds fuel to the flames building between our main characters as Danielle offers up a sultry scene where we find our leads well into their closed-door affair. Many of Danielle character's boundaries being pushed by her secret lover in a somewhat dominant/submissive fashion. Producer/arranger Rujay Torres helps add to the allure of the Blaiq's lines (and rhymes) by blueprinting a beat that feels tense and on-edge with its echoing samples, low growling bassline, and throbbing drums.
The project's midpoint, "All In (Closer)" is a sweetly flowing serenade that, as the title suggests, finds Danielle committing all of herself to a now relatively long-standing romance. While the song's stutter-stepping drums and dark-tinted chords - mapped out by producer Loudestro - give it a modern, post-trap feel, the singer's rich harmonies add a sweeping quality to the finished product that firmly places it in the lane of a soothing ballad. But while our main character finds herself basking in the warmth of being completely in love, there is a hint of storm clouds brewing in the distance as parts of the song subtly hint that the other half of the relationship can't quite commit with equal zeal. In fact, I'm almost certain that the cell phone-like voice-sample that keeps popping up during the track is our mystery man saying "Don't ask for more, love". The piece that immediately follows, titled "Here NOW", finds an openly vulnerable Blaiq trying to weather a barrage of emotions as the complicated romance begins to generate feelings of loneliness and unrewarded commitment. Danielle's sumptuously husky tone and sobering delivery give the song a hauntingly beautiful quality which is especially evident when her voice is layered in crisscrossing webs during the choruses.
The conceptual project closes with an impactful number called "Carried Away" which finds our soul-star speaking from a more empowered position where the dynamics of her rocky relationship appear to have shifted significantly. Madam Blaiq sounds liberated and stronger as she comes to realize that she gave more than she received when dealing with her personal "Mr. Big". It's revealing that our author doesn't cast herself in the role of a victim even though the opportunity is clearly there for the taking. Even as she repeatedly admits that she "...knew not to fuck with" her intense yet ultimately not fully committed lover, she seems more critical of herself and her actions than she is of her professional-confidant-turned-paramour. And while "Carried Away" appears to tie up the story of the EP, our heroine gives off an air of being set free from the past and beginning a new story on a surer footing as she confidently hums over a bluesy electro break.
By and large, The NOW Project is an earnest study in vulnerability and longing from the point of view of a woman who has entered into a potentially heartbreaking affair with her eyes wide open. Surprisingly (at least to me), the set brims with unapologetic affection and an overall vibe that is soothing. Sincerity and openness can be found in places where overwrought drama would be the go-to choice for other R&B artists. And as a result, Danielle Blaiq has delivered a loosely centered but affective concept album that showcases her gifts as a writer and performer.
You can listen to The NOW Project, on all streaming services, courtesy of BlaiQInQ Music