Andra Day ‘nails it’ on her retro-soul debut Cheers To The Fall
Andra Day • Cheers To The Fall • Buskin/Warner Bros • Release Date: August 28, 2015
For a while in 2015, it seemed the days of being excited about a new R&B artist or new R&B album were done. The early part of the year nearly killed the vibe for all time. Luckily, R&B has clearly reenergized and with newcomer Andra Day, the energy has percolated to incredible heights. Retro soul may not appeal to everybody, even those who love their R&B, but for the purists and even jazz lovers, Andra Day’s debut Cheers To The Fall WILL be on repeat. Need a perfect example of how to kill it on your debut album? Look no further than Day’s Cheers To The Fall.
“Forever Mine” is ferocious from the jump; it “roars like a lion.” Clearly Day is the “queen of the jungle” delivering a vocal master class on the romantic throwback soul opener. The lyrics are pretty rad too: “My heart has been a chessboard / making moves and losing out / played so many times before / and there ain’t nothing to brag about.” Get it Andra!
“Only Love” accelerates the tempo a might. Day remains feisty as her distinctive pipes continue to shine. The production remains firmly planted in the old school, but it’s fresh enough to sound hip and not anachronistic. Much like “Forever Mine,” the Amy Winehouse comparisons run rampant. Day synthesizes elements of soul and jazz coupled with an assortment of vocalists to create her distinct style and vocals.
Besting “Forever Mine” is a tall task, but “Gold” does a remarkable job of at least staying in good company with the valedictory opener. There’s a dash more hip-hop soul about “Gold,” even though it still would’ve been hot ‘back in the day.’ Day’s continual feistiness continues to enhance her winning formula. What’s the best part of powerful follow-up “Not Today?” – Definitely the soaring refrain. Assertive without question, Day make it clear that “Tomorrow is not today.”
After flying high on “Not Today,” Day speaks upon her “Mistakes” and how she plans to avoid them. The script is ‘tried and true,’ but Day executes it flawlessly and compellingly. We clearly believe that she won’t “make the same mistakes.” Slowing things down once more is “Goodbye Goodnight,” which fittingly has the lullaby vibe going on. Still, not many lullabies are sung with the raw power that Day brings here, showing sheer breadth and depth of her instrument. Background vocals accentuate the groundwork laid by Day, making “Goodbye Goodnight” another ‘Grade A’ moment from Cheers To The Fall.
As she looks back on “Rearview,” Day uses the mirror as a brilliant metaphor. The relationship has ceased, yet apparently it just sort of ended without being a ‘closed case’ (“And it’s a cold case, cold case to break”). Portraying heartbreak exceptionally, the pain is perceptible throughout Day’s voice, particularly at the conclusion of the song. Keeping instep with relationship issues, “Red Flags” finds Day regretting the relationships – “I should’ve known” reiterated throughout the memorable, honest chorus. Does Day miss? Nope, never!
“Honey Or Fire” smartly gives Cheers To The Fall a spryer tempo and more pronounced groove. Day continues to showcase her vocal prowess, notably poised yet incredibly effectively on the verses. She lets it unfurl more on the refrain, going straight for the kill. “Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand)” takes it back to the 50s, driven by a driving six-eight groove that surrounded by lazy, chill production. The relatively simple production work is brilliant because it put the weight on Day’s shoulders, and she handles it remarkably. While “Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand)” may find itself ‘down the totem pole’ compared to Cheers To The Fall’s elite it shouldn’t – it’s yet another gem.
“Rise Up” is arguably the best candidate to give “Forever Mine” a run for its money. What other adjectives are there to describe this or the rest of Cheers To The Fall? It’s masterful, sensational, and top-notch. Closing songs “City Burns” and “Cheers To The Fall” can’t duplicate the same level excellence, but like all of Cheers, both songs hold their own without question.
The question is no longer if Cheers To The Fall is a good album, it’s just HOW good is it? The answer is exceptionally good. There have been some great R&B albums and some no-so great ones issued in 2015. Day’s debut is one of the great ones without question. And her voice is clearly one of the best EVER. Thumbs up by all means.
Favorites: “Forever Mine,” “Gold,” “Not Today,” “Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand)” and “Rise Up”