After the past turbulent year and a half, it’s easy to question what makes life beautiful. On her third studio album Nao articulates her own journey into how she discovered an answer. ‘And Then Life Was Beautiful’ is a radiant guide through the personal journey Nao has been on and will touch the hearts of those willing to listen.
The euphoria of the album begins with the titular ‘And Then The World Was Beautiful’. Underlying drumbeats motivate waves of harmonious joy and are carried by the albums ever-present guitar. This infuses the track with summer and is reminiscent of the 90’s R&B rooted in Nao’s previous work. Nao’s expression within ‘Nothings For Sure’ – “just let the moment take you on its wings” – demonstrates the angelic journey listeners will be assisted on from the first track onwards.
Part of this journey is intwined with Nao’s own entrance into motherhood, most notably in ‘Woman’ featuring Lianne La Havas, which stands out for its exceptional lyricism. Recorded with her new-born daughter strapped to her chest, the track is channelled with a confident, empowering energy. The stunning end line, “take my mirror out the bag and fill it with confidence”, demonstrates a change in her self-reflection and an alleviation from previous self-doubt.
‘And Then Life Was Beautiful’ demonstrates the greatly anticipated return of Nao since her critically acclaimed album ‘Saturn’. The release of new music speaks for her new outlook, that “through every rough patch, every dark patch or struggle we always come out again”. Written during lockdown, a worldwide period of standstill, Nao took opportunity in coming to terms with the “kaleidoscope of life” (‘Glad That You’re Gone’). The album offers listeners a similar opportunity, but whereas many faced lockdowns as a difficult interruption ‘And Then Life Was Beautiful’ creates a breathing space.
Nao’s creative and musical abilities know no bounds. She spins challenging experiences into a sensual and sonically amazing musical project, succeeding in the unlikely balance between soothing transportation to alternate realities whilst grounding you on earth. This offers an unparalleled listening experience. Each quality – the gorgeous vocals, the radiant tones, the graceful guitar – manifests enlightened bliss. The expertly blended transitions between each track transform them into puzzle pieces that fit smoothly together. Some pieces may prove difficult to fit (‘Burn Out’ for instance) but are equally important in the overall picture – that the world is beautiful. Stepping back from the album, analysing the lyrics and the underlying details, allows you to fully appreciate its glory as a work of art.
Words: Amelia Kelly
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