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New Music: Sway Clarke II
September 12, 2014
It’s not hard to compare Sway Clarke II to the likes of Bruno Mars or Frank Ocean, the vocal similarities are immediately apparent from the opening line of his debut single ‘Secret Garden’ (released on September 9th) with the sickly sweet, warm vocals trickling forth and riding on the wave of the laconic beat.
Like Ocean, Clarke plays heavy on his contemporary R&B influences and could quite possibly put his name forward as heir apparent to the singer-songwriter, but rather than be encouraged by a hip-hop beat (a concession he later makes way for by introducing collaborator TINK to rap out the bridge of the tune) there is a distinct focus on the soulfulness of his voice. The vocals are brought to the forefront to such a degree that the rest of the song is pared right back to complete simplicity.
There is no overtly lush arrangement that soars in and out of driving peaks and troughs but rather a basic dance beat and a hammered out, one handed keyboard rhythm. Gone are the epically catchy hooks that Mars’ career seems to centre on, designed to bore into the skull of every tween and firmly lodge themselves in there like the irritating buzzing of an insect trapped in a hot car. Instead they are replaced with a trudging mantra that involves repeating a series of colours and the line “I got love to give” that you will find yourself reciting under your breath like a ritual without even noticing you’re doing it.
In fact, there’s a lot you might not notice about this song, like the nod to Clarke’s home town in the line “Toronto had me cold/I was young with no control”, but it is most definitely there, which is admirable, given that Canada’s recent gifts to music have included Bieber, Nickelback and Avril Lavigne, so he could be forgiven for playing down his Canadian links and referencing his Jamaican/Cuban heritage.
You may also have missed that, despite bearing all the tropes of being a story of unrequited romance, it is actually a darkly twisted ode to infidelity. A love song truly made for the modern age. But without a doubt, the thing you will notice least is how much this song sneaks up on you, like a true sleeper hit it will ruminate in the back of your mind, waiting to pounce on your consciousness.
Vincent JS Wood