Ronin releases new Single


Hooks the size of skyscrapers. Harmonies that wrap around us like a jungle snake desperate for nourishment would. Melodies that are as hot as the sun’s surface. This is all par for the course in “Chemical Smiles,” the penetrative pop song that Ronin is releasing this coming June as his official greeting card to a world ready for some fresh R&B fodder. Listeners with a taste for the mundane would do well to stay away from this chicly transcendent track, as it’s got an experimental layering that isn’t just outside of the mainstream; it’s flat-out experimental, and from what I can tell, proud to be so.

It isn’t a punk rock song, but “Chemical Smiles” has some serious attitude that makes it an appealing listen to alternative audiences as well as fans of more traditional R&B/pop. Ronin is always front and center in the mix, leading the synthesizers that form his backing band like an old school frontman pining for the attention of a crowded arena. He stops short of being arrogant here, but there’s a confidence in his delivery that I could only hope to see more of in some of the other rookies that I’ve been hearing in the past year or so.

I really like that Ronin doesn’t manipulate a bunch of enigmatic verses into some deep poetic narrative in this song; instead of placating us with all the normal platitudes and metaphors about love, relationships and mistrust, he keeps it on the straight and narrow and employs only a handful of cryptic messages in the delivery of his statements here. If he’s got something to say, Ronin rightly says it to us – he doesn’t use an instrumental smokescreen, nor does he break away from the main melody for some ridiculously virtuosic vocal solo. I get the vibe that such pedestrian tactics are, frankly, beneath his pedigree.


Ronin doesn’t sound like a newbie to the recording process in “Chemical Smiles,” and that by itself makes this single one worth checking out if you’re keen on up and coming artists with a lot of potential to brag about. He avoids the kind of indulgence that has become a mainstay of indie pop, but he isn’t the least bit reticent about piling on the glitzy grooves. Granted, this is only his first release, but he’s set the bar so high for himself moving forward that it’s going to be hard for both him and those certain competitors within his scene to top what he’s already done here.

You can look high and low this summer, but finding another club song with the urbane, provocative edge that “Chemical Smiles” has is going to be tough. Along with Hazey Eyes, Victor PEDRO and Alex Dutty, Ronin is leading the charge for a new era in pop-leaning R&B, and he isn’t hiding his ambitiousness from us at all in his official debut. He still has some growing up to do, but make no mistake about it – when we’re discussing the most affectual singles to have been cut in 2019 come December, my gut tells me this is still going to be a part of the conversation.

Michael Rand

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