The impact of R&B group Sonder, or rather their trajectory for use of a better word, has over the last year been phenomenal. Amassing a loyal fan base and selling out shows across America, their success could be perceived as an ode to the soundcloud DIY generation. At the forefront of Sonder is lead singer Brent Faiyaz, who quickly captured hearts infatuated with an R&B renaissance, drawn to his outstanding falsetto and witty writing skills.
Faiyaz first popped on the scene in 2015 releasing ‘Allure’ on Soundcloud. While he took inspiration from the 90’s R&B classics, he also had his own style, and wasn’t afraid to rip up the R&B rulebook and create a sound that was fitting for a new generation of R&B lovers. Last September, Faiyaz released his debut EP ‘AM Paradox’, a teaser to who he was as an artist and an individual. Not long after the release of his first EP he linked up with producers Atu and Dpat and formed Sonder. They released their EP ‘Into’ at the start of 2017 and it got the R&B connoisseurs shaking. Now lead vocalist Brent Faiyaz is continuing the Sonder family tree and stepping out on his own with his debut album ‘Sonder Son’.
It’s perfect timing for Faiyaz who also sang the hook on the song of the Summer, ‘Crew’ with Goldlink and Shy Glizzy. Hitting the Billboard 100 and recently going platinum, ‘Crew’ left everyone wanting to get to know the man behind the fire hook, and now we get to find out. ‘Sonder Son’ is a beautiful introduction to Brent Faiyaz, it’s an audio-biography of the manifestation of the word ‘Sonder’ which means; “the realization that every passerby is living a life as vivid and as complex as our own – causing each of our experiences to flow into each other”. Reliving each experience, Faiyaz takes us on his own life journey, speaking on his childhood, his life as an independent artist in LA, finding love and friendship.
While the overarching theme of Brent’s debut EP ‘AM Paradox’ reflected a songwriting style that fits the common R&B format of themes around women, relationships and sex, with ‘Sonder Son’ we’re witnessing the evolution of Faiyaz’s pen skills as he recalls his younger days. The 12-track album is Baltimore-born Faiyaz’s coming-of-age story and the signal for his musical arrival. ‘Sonder Son’ opens with ‘Home’ which features a skit from a discouraged mother who is angry about her child’s school grades. ‘Home’ moves into ‘Gangsta Over Luv’ which delves more into Faiyaz’s high school days, as he recounts skipping school with friends. It’s introspective, recalling a time when “we were young and in this world, chasing dreams and girls, running from our problems”.
As an audio-biography it has a visual quality, walking the listener through Faiyaz’s journey before he moved to LA to pursue life as a recording artist. ‘Missing Out’ while sparsely arranged as a record with just a bass guitar leading the production gives Faiyaz an ethereal space to act as the guide into his journey through music. Faiyaz’s ability to be open and vulnerable in his music is refreshing, given it’s something which many Black men in particular have commonly struggled with.
The struggles of being an independent recording artist are further amplified on ‘L.A’ , as Faiyaz speaks about being an outsider in a new city and all the anxieties that come with living in it. It’s a journal of a hungry musician living in the matrix of Hollywood, as he speaks about taking risks like “overdrawn fees” from recording sessions and how it’s better than being “broke, bored and back at home”. ‘L.A’s live instrumentation lends it it’s cinematic feel with warm sultry strings and an electrifying saxophone solo at the end of the song. If a ‘Sonder Son’ documentary is in the works, you can visualise just how perfectly ‘L.A’ would sit in its soundtrack.
Faiyaz pays homage to his Sonder roots with ‘Talk 2 U’, taking it to just to the point where you find yourself almost believing this could be produced by famed R&B hit-maker Darkchild. Faiyaz’s voice caresses ‘Talk 2 U’ with two-part harmonies, Latin guitar riffs and strong high hat drums, as a celebration of an R&B past while ushering in an R&B future. Some songs almost have a Jeff Buckley feel, with the more stripped back ballads nodding to D’Angelo, and then there are songs like ‘First World Problemz ‘which highlight social issues reminiscent of Marvin Gaye. The variety in Faiyaz’s production choices, introduce us to an artist who is seemingly inspired by many genres.
‘Sonder Son’ expresses the beauty and power of being an independent artist with the freedom to craft an authentic body of work without the machine of a major label. Brent Faiyaz is unafraid to carve out his own lane, fearlessly taking pages out of the classic R&B rulebook while enriching it with his own sound. ‘Sonder Son’ is a foundation for longevity and legacy, two things that all artists should be striving for.