I love surprises. Particularly pleasant surprises. I enjoy discovering an artist that, on the surface, appears a direct contradiction to my typical musical tastes, but somehow manages to earn my affection nonetheless. Such was the case with Brooklyn’s Doe Paoro, who released her debut LP Slow to Love last week.
My ears left the female R&B scene behind sometime after TLC and long before Nicki Minaj. That’s not to say that I am deaf to the genre’s bright spots. I appreciate a strong voice as much as the next listener. However, so much of what has found my ears in the last decade felt machine made, pre-packaged and thoughtless. As a result, I largely tuned out.
Enter Doe Paoro. Her debut release is accessible and radio-ready without reverting to cliché, formulaic banality. Paoro’s voice is left to dance in front of a stark, minimalist backdrop. The album’s sparse production brings the singer’s strengths to the forefront, allowing her emotions to shine rather than get lost in the shuffle.
Stereogum was apt to cite Erykah Badu as a prominent influence on the album’s debut single “Born Whole” in their Band to Watch post last week. The track certainly bares more resemblance to Badu than other prominent 90s R&B vixens. On “I’ll Go Blind” Paoro strides closer to the masculine end of the spectrum, calling to mind Musiq Soulchild or Maxwell’s best work. Listen below.
This isn’t to say that Slow to Love is a flawless home run. “Trying to Impress” and “Body Games” toe the line of predictable, boy-crazy pop music. But the ablum’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses by a long shot. A refusal to pigeonhole Paoro’s talent has resulted in a release that could appeal to a broad cross-section of listeners, much in the way that Lykke Li was able to accomplish last year.
I will be interested to see how this release fares in 2012. At its best, Slow to Love can be gorgeous, haunting and danceable. The question will be whether Doe Paoro’s vision is cohesive enough to become a release that the masses will latch to. Name your price for a digital download via Bandcamp. Watch the video for “Born Whole” below.
Written by Rob Peoni