GENIUS.COM

★★★☆☆
Twenty-one-year-old singer and rapper Roy Woods blurs the lines between rhythm and blues and rap, though he leans more toward the former, producing atmospheric tracks across the emotional spectrum through the 16 tracks on his debut album. “Say Less” excels because of Woods’ slick vocal flow and abundant energy, but its excessive length holds it back. With fewer songs on the album, each could have packed a heavier punch and left the listener craving more.

Born Denzel Spencer in Brampton, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, Woods is yet another young Canadian star signed to Drake’s label, OVO Sound, through which he has produced three small projects over the past two years. “Say Less” borrows heavily from R&B, presenting a unified project that captures Woods’ evolution as an artist.

The influences of his Torontonian contemporary, The Weeknd, and artists like Bryson Tiller are prevalent in Woods’ tone and overall style, as he mixes their brooding melodies and sexual innuendos with an upbeat mood and his own instrumental backdrops. The niche Woods targets is clear: “baby-making music.”

Despite similarities between Woods and his contemporaries, the energy and rhythm that each artist brings to the table are very different. The Weeknd has more polished vocals, whereas Roy Woods is still finding his sound. He possesses a large appetite for instrumental experimentation and a good ear for beats, crossing from electronic to soulful R&B to reggae in the space of a few tracks.

The album begins with dark, thumping bass and soothing strumming on “Medusa.” Woods’ voice comes in strong and is heavily assisted by producer Prezident Jeff’s glitchy instrumentals.

In his next song, “Little Bit of Lovin,” Woods emulates one of his idols, Michael Jackson, with a similar cadence and mood over a clunky beat. This track falls short and does not stand out; the creativity is there, but Woods misses on the execution. The eponymous track follows, showcasing the full extent of his vocal range with half-sung bars and wild falsettos over a sluggish, warped drum beat.

The entire album only contains three tracks with features, and the most notable of these comes on “Take Time,” which features 24hrs, an up-and-coming rapper and brother of American recording arist MadeinTYO. 24hrs’ saturated auto-tune and wispy outro steal the show as Woods guides the track along.

The best song on the album, “Something New,” sees Woods take a different approach over an electronic beat with a killer drop and catchy verses supplemented by withdrawn piano.

“Top Left” is the song that sounds most like rap, as it is filled with simple bars, ad-libs and a fair amount of Beyoncé references. Brief moments of rap also appear on “In The Club,” as Woods delivers verses focused on getting rich and “posting with [his] thugs” but transitions back to silky croons moments later.

Fellow OVO artist, PARTYNEXTDOOR, contributes to Woods’ debut effort with a solid hook on “Back It Up.” In this instance, Woods outshines his collaborator, effectively blending falsettos with raspy yells. The two singers play off each other well, harmonizing and switching off with ease. The minimalistic production is their playground as they stretch their voices in concert with the wavy beat.

Together, the tracks on “Say Less” make the album an enjoyable listen and a good indicator of Woods’ potential as an artist. The talent of the young Toronto singer is clear, with soaring vocals and effortless charisma, but Woods must stretch his boundaries and further develop his own style to separate himself from the pack.

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