Across every form of media imaginable, loss is a theme that has been explored consistently over time. For every individual, loss means something different, and on her debut album ‘What We Lost’, Montréal-based producer and artist Janette King puts together an eclectic blend of house and R&B to tackle what it is for her.
Throughout her debut, King’s voice is airy and sweet above a variety of production, her voice often resembling the samples present in many house tracks. Opening track ‘Airplane’ is perhaps the most inspired in production by house music, featuring the record’s bounciest drums and synths, and King’s most eccentric chorus. A more contemporary R&B track, the sugar-sweet ‘You Don’t Love Me’ is nonetheless tinged with bitterness, drawing on the 90s with lyrics on a one-sided relationship, (‘Lately when we meet up it feels like something’s wrong / I don’t wanna believe that all our love is gone’) with King showing off her range both lyrically and vocally.
A slower, sultry track, ‘Unconditional’ is low-key in its production, King singing of unconditional love and living in the moment in the chorus. Its outro isolates her vocals briefly, causing her vocal talents to become the focus. On the other hand, ‘Cool Me Down’ is shifting and upbeat, featuring Toronto rapper Dijah SB whose charisma pairs well with King’s syrupy vocals.
The title track is slow initially, starting with introspection before breaking into thick house percussion and elastic synths. King’s versatility, offering engaging songwriting and catchy, melted house vocals on the same track, is standout.
Recorded in 2020 around the time of the Black Lives Matter protests, the intensity of the album’s theme is multiplied, especially on ‘Change’. Explicit in its subject of racial injustice, the softness of King’s vocals betray the heartbreak of her lyrics on the treatment of Black people by the police, singing ‘watching the police murder people that look like me’ yet also denying pity from others, instead calling for real change.
With its shifting, electronic R&B, ‘Caught In Smoke’ stands above the rest of the album, fit for partying yet keeping King’s keen lyricism. Her venturing into the abstract, questioning what is real at all, once again blurs the line between the reflective, personal song and upbeat banger.
On ‘What We Lost’, Jannette King gathers the strands of loss, exploring each separately and forming them into a sonically broad alternative R&B debut. Her mature reflection on a variety of issues is not overdone, and the tracklist is energetic and melancholic in equal measure.
Words: Jack Oxford
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