Roy Woods, real name Denzel Spencer, has had a tough job ahead of him since signing with Drake's OVO Sound record label back in 2015. Not only does the 21-year-old have to live up to the backing given by a superstar of such stature, but he must also compete in a musical landscape in which his particular brand of down-tempo, ethereal R&B is pretty ubiquitous.
As if this wasn't difficult enough, it can't help that the majority of his competition is signed to the same record label. With a roster that includes PartyNextDoor, Majid Jordan, dvsn and a label boss that is arguably the catalyst for the popularity of the genre, Woods was always going to have his work cut out on debut LP 'Say Less'.
Things on ‘Say Less’ start how you'd expect, with a typically nocturnal beat allowing Woods to croon on 'Medusa'. It isn't bad, but as anticipated it doesn't stray too far from the typical OVO formula. 'Little Bit of Lovin' is more of an interesting departure and a surprising change of pace so early on, as Woods adopts a more retro, MJ-esque ‘80s groove.
However, this digression doesn't last long and soon we’re back on safe ground with titular track 'Say Less'. Although one of the more enjoyable tracks on the album, it does seem heavily inspired by 'Take Care’-era Drake. It isn't even just from an instrumental or a melodic standpoint — lyrics such as “Barely said a thing, got me here alone without conversation / Yeah I feel beside myself, I understand me,” seem almost like a Drake parody. This is followed by a series of tracks that take have more of a dancehall and reggae influence, with both 'Take Time' and 'Something New' being more upbeat offerings that inject the project with a little more energy.
By the time we reach the middle of the project, the issue with 'Say Less' becomes more and more apparent. No matter how well produced or performed some of these tracks are, there's nothing really unique about this album. The two songs at the centre of the project, 'BB' and 'Back It Up', are perfect examples of this, with the former sounding like a half-baked Weeknd throwaway and the latter being undoubtedly the worst performance from Woods on the whole LP. He tries and fails to emulate PartyNextDoor's more gravelly sing-rap delivery, which is then made more evident when PND actually appears on the song.
The second half of the album is more of the same, with some enjoyable moments such as 'What Are You On?' and 'In the Club', but is unfortunately as equally forgettable. Thankfully, 'Say Less' concludes with two of the strongest tracks on the album, a tribute to Woods' hometown Brampton on 'B-Town' and the confessional 'Undivided'. While the album is undeniably well produced and generally well performed, unfortunately Woods' fails in his first attempt to stand out from the crowd.
Words: Will Rosebury
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