Rhea the Second – Pink Nation

Where to begin… you don’t expect to hear such unassuming yet all encompassing confidence from young R&B and soul singer/songwriters, not in 1969, not in 2019. We are accustomed to a period of precociousness promising glories to come before those halcyon days arrive, but Rhea the Second has emerged in full bloom with no apparent limits to what she can accomplish. Her single “Pink Nation” captures your attention straight out of the gate with its warm, enveloping sound and suggestive atmospherics. Great care has gone into this performance and recording, but it never sounds belabored. Instead, the obvious design of the song enhances its quality and further illustrates how complete Rhea the Second’s talents are so early in her career and how astute her choices are for collaborators like producer Jayson Rose.

She may be Chicago based now, but her vocals are steeped in the smooth soulfulness of her legendary hometown label, Detroit’s Motown Records. The influence of those vocalists of yore never inspires Rhea towards crass or amateurish imitation but, rather, informs her modern approach to performing the material, particularly in regards to her phrasing. The phrasing of the lyrics for “Pink Nation” has an understated rhythmic effect and the gentle pull it exerts on listeners helps make this an even more rewarding listening experience.

The words for “Pink Nation” spring from a conversation Rhea and her mother recently engaged in, reflections on her parents’ marriage, and a wedding photograph where her mother held a wedding bouquet of pink carnations. The image stuck in Rhea’s mind and fueled the writing of this lyric. Much like the musical arrangement, “Pink Nation” is unsparing and omits any needless words, instead embracing a lean economy of thought that helps make the track all the more meaningful.

The musical arrangement crowns everything with the same stylishness and attention to detail. Everything seems invested with a slight but effective echo and the percussion provides firm footing for the song to stand on while, nevertheless, supplying it with a memorable groove. It is exhilarating to hear how she responds vocally to the song’s slow simmer as the intensity grows during the track’s second half and she adds artful brass touches that complement her more impassioned singing. Each musical element of the song is produced in the right way – one never gets the feeling that any specific part of the track, even her vocals, is somehow highlighted at the expense of others. Instead, Rhea and her musical cohorts put everything on equal ground and create a musical experience defined by unity and seamlessness.

It’s a first rate release and single by any measure. Rhea the Second is already a formidable talent and it’s a little mind boggling to imagine how much further she can go from here, but she isn’t even near her peak yet. We are, as listeners, coming in near the ground floor of something special with “Pink Nation” and, as her career and artistic powers continue to build, she will leave a lasting monument in her wake that future performers will take cues from.

Michael Rand

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