Enjoying the 90s comeback? Listen to these up-and-coming artists!
The 90’s are back! Everywhere you look is double denim and crop tops, chunky trainers and tiny sunglasses. Last year there was a new Matrix movie out while Hulu released both Pam and Tommy and American Crime Story: Impeachment which were dramatized, cultural reassessments of the era. Musically the slick production, rolling beat and sly vocals of the 90’s is also back. Chloe x Halle channeled this sound in 2020 with their critically acclaimed album Ungodly Hour. Tracks like ‘Don’t Make It Harder on Me’ drew out melodic threads from the direct influences, (which include their actual mentor, Beyoncé.) The track steadily builds to a light and airy chorus that elevates its listeners with the duos’ soaring vocals.
In the wake of Chloe x Halle, British girl group FLO have burst onto the scene, drawing attention for their exciting singles. ‘Feature Me’, which opens with the distinctive trill of the snares, feels reminiscent of Toni Braxton. Braxton’s dance hits effectively layer vocals over a fast tempo, contrasting the seamless runs of her contralto with electronic movement. Songs like ‘Gimme Some’ from Toni Braxton's 2000 album The Heat, offer an infectious rhythm, one designed to be experienced by a group. FLO have channeled this, writing songs for their friends, songs that are warm and full, songs that are driven by danceable beat.
Similarly seizing on this trend is up and coming star Cheryll. With her 2021 EP Transition Cheryll crafts a sultry anthem on wanting with ‘Crushin’. Her voice splits into multiple levels in the chorus, “I’m so drawn by the way that you moved / Please don’t mind me I’m just crushin’ on you” she sings, letting that final phrase float out in both a high-pitched whisper and a lower pitched admission. Cheryll draws on her creative inspirations in this, mirroring Aaliyah with her kind of sonic intensity, tracing a musical landscape that is varied and entrancing.
With ‘What About Us?’ Cheryll veers from the lilting vocals of ‘Crushin’ and authoritatively questioning the anonymous man, adjusting her singing style to meet the faster paced song. A less gentle version of Cheryll possesses the EP, assuming a commanding outlook.
Aspiring singers and songwriters everywhere could learn something by observing and trying to understand the root of this return to the 90s. Every few years we experience a nostalgic return to a not-too-distance past, a return to the era artists grew up in, a time when they were easily influenced by the art they were surrounded by. What are the aspects of this era worth transposing onto our current cultural landscape? Which artists are worth artistically grappling with? What can you, as an up-and-coming musician, learn from the likes of Cheryll or FLO?