The up-and-coming Toronto-based singer and rapper displayed an ability to energize the crowd with grittier material, but failed to impact the audience with her traditional R&B sound.

11/23/18 – The Sinclair

Savannah Ré stumbled through the first song of her opening set for Jessie Reyez’s sold-out show at The Sinclair. The Toronto-based R&B singer appeared nervous and, accompanied only by DJ Rosegold, was often pitchy as she sang an unreleased song. Fortunately, her confidence increased throughout her set as she sang and rapped through more familiar tunes such as “Best Is Yet To Come” and “Count Em Off (Rant).” She may have been more comfortable singing her better-known songs; however, the liveliness and attitude in the few songs that she had released publicly far exceeded the material from the beginning of her set. While Ré has produced a couple of bangers, she has much room for improvement in crafting ear-catching songs and performing newer material with confidence.

Two of the three songs Ré has uploaded to Spotify, “Best Is Yet To Come” and “Count Em Off (Rant)” heavily incorporate rap elements; unsurprisingly, these two tracks are Re’s strongest. “Best is Yet To Come” includes sharp keyboards, a booming bass, and Ré’s swaggering lyrics about finding a love that accepts her for who she is. She sings, “I be out here eating kale and shit / Tryna balance out the scale a bit / But you do like me thick / And I love that shit.”

“Count Em Off (Rant)” is a rap song with a hook sung by the rapper herself. Over a haunting beat with an intro reminiscent of Denzel Curry’s “Ultimate,” Ré raps, “I got a roster of niggas / Ain’t even saving they numbers / Told them that I ain’t shit / But they keep on calling.” On both songs, Ré poses confidently as a woman refusing to settle for anything else than the utter admiration of lovers and friends.

Impressed,” on the other hand, sounds like a more traditional R&B song, with Ré singing over a moody beat and its backbone, a subdued electric guitar. “Impressed” also has a less aggressive tone than the other two tracks, especially since the song’s theme is a gentle recognition of how a person’s flaws make them unique. While “Best Is Yet To Come” is boisterous and triumphant and “Count Em Off (Rant)” is antagonistic and jarring, “Impressed” simply bores. While the subject on “Impressed” is unclear, the other two songs present Ré at the forefront as someone that everyone should get excited about.

“Impressed” sounded slightly better live as Ré prompted the audience to repeat the chorus after her. But the song’s performance, like the songs towards the beginning of the set, still lacked the flair of more rap-influenced numbers—in particular, a short, elegant cover of 50 Cent’s “Many Men.” The song’s gritty lyrics affirmed Ré’s statement before the performance that, “being from Scarborough, I’ve seen a lot, and I’ve a lost a lot.” Ré’s sincere connection to a background that requires hardcore persistence and mental toughness renders her rap performances much more effective than her gentler, less explicit material.

During “Count Em Off (Rant)”, Ré’s last song of her set, she engaged with the audience much more. She bent down to high-five fans, moved around the stage more, and generally appeared more confident. The song—which affirms Ré’s sexual prowess and rebukes notions of exclusivity—entails performing with swagger for any aspect of it to be convincing. However, that swagger is just what Ré needs. Such proclamations of female empowerment, like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” or Beyonce’s “Partition,” have allowed singers originally labeled with the R&B tag to stay relevant. The thematic and sonic shift in R&B towards rap has signified the development of an artistic journey for many female singers; songs like “Count Em Off (Rant)” capture a femininity that can also sound bombastic and aggressive.

One of the benefits of crossover between genres is that artists can exhibit multiple dimensions of themselves. R&B, a genre often associated with romance and tenderness, can incorporate rap, a genre that often involves exuding large amounts of confidence into its themes and sounds. Now, more than ever, rap and R&B can be labeled as one and the same. The key for Ré and many other aspiring R&B singers like her, is to absorb elements of both genres into their artistic identity to develop a voice they believe in.

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