There are not many who have quite the rep that Cherri V has. A notable mainstay in Black British music, she has spent time honing her craft, recording alongside the likes of Jessie J, Dawn Richard, Wiley and Lethal Bizzle in the process. Having also been one half of the renowned underground R&B duo Dora Martin, she recently settled down to work on her debut solo full length.
A true artist, the London performer’s sense of soul is evident and her vocal ability is not only undeniable but unrivalled by many however it has taken her a fair amount of time to put together an individual body of work that we can enjoy. And now, after years of hard work in the industry, we finally have Brown Eyed Soul Vol. 1.
The name is a spin on the classic phrase ‘Blued Eyed Soul’ – the idea of the classic genre performed by white artists, from Justin Timberlake to Joss Stone. While there’s no shade on her end – she made this apparently clear in an interview – she emphasises through the title and throughout the project the importance of highlighting great soul from ‘brown eyed’ folk, telling the stories as we do best.
The first EP in the supposed beginning trilogy is an eight track wonder made up of a few previous single releases as well as a couple new cuts with a select number of features added to the mix. Classic R&B signatures with a contemporary flavour seems to be theme concurrently running through Brown Eyed Soul Vol. 1.
So the EP starts strong with opener “Leave Me Be”. Delivering velvety smooth vocals Cherri V fuses this with an instrumental dipped in a jazz influenced sound. The enchanting synths that lay low in the back add to the atmosphere and the rhythmic production give it an ultimately contemporary R&B feel. The intro, as it seems, is a song born from a personal place.
Da Beatfreaks-produced “Runaway” has a synonymous bounce that you associate with the production duo. In life and love, it’s human to be torn in, it’s human to be sometimes indecisive. And sometimes as humans we just want to get away from it all to find some sort clarity. This is Cherri’s anthem speaking her truth and I, for one, can definitely relate.
What is love without a little pain? Cheating has definitely gotten less sophisticated these days and the age of tech means the millennial struggle has another battlefield to try and manoeuvre. “Snapchat Mistress” is the age of story of infidelity but from a social media perspective. Emojis, explicit images and finding their location is only some of the topics on the agenda as Cherri presents relatable woes in crude from a male and female perspective over a trap-esque audio canvas.
And what could be worse than cheating? Possibly feeling undervalued and worthless…while actually in a relationship. “Lockdown/Prisoner” is just that story. And with something as deep as this, you need the right production to match it. You definitely can’t have Soul without some soulful sounding keys, right? But throw in some of that extra urban UK production sensibilities and the result is another track that will have your head nodding.
“Things You Do” possesses a carefree sensibility, allowing the joys of love and attraction to spark up the track while the light-hearted instrumentals are great fun and make you want to shuffle. The very infectious piano and drums-led offering, with its R&B/Pop sensibilities, showcases Cherri V’s amazing vocal talent, and her carefree and relatable song-writing.
I am personally a sucker for a piano ballad and “Situationship” definitely ticks all the boxes for me. A beautifully orchestrated piano melody at the core, poignant lyrics and the sweet vocals of Cherri and Sincerely Wilson. Quite the millennial phrase, they detail that inconvenient position of not being officially being someone’s significant other despite desperately desiring to be.
It was a nice touch calling on the vocals of R&B veteran Terri Walker for the penultimate offering “Brown Eyed Soul (Interlude)”. Think of it as a passing of the baton, from the scholar to the student. But more so than that, it’s a brief but special vocal masterclass from such a revered talent.
And then we are left to “Swimming”, our grand finale, which sees Cherri sticking to the overarching ‘classic yet contemporary’ feel pushing the envelope musically with this experimental R&B musical backdrop, backed by synth piano arrangements and underpinned by Cherri’s amazing vocal performance and delivery, with RoxXxan providing the perfect guest rap verse to complement the record. The strength of this record propels the project as a whole and is a strong way to end it all.
In just eight short tracks, Brown Eyed Soul Vol. 1 manages to explore the breadths of R&B in its own sort of sophistication, not only in terms of sounds but also with content. Cherri’s pen explores love, lust and relationships in a relatable and palatable manner which is commendable.
As if there are enough superlatives to describe the vocal display by Cherri V. This EP is well produced and above all there are no ‘fillers’ which is satisfying for personally. It is a great position to springboard off – no how many volumes of Brown Eyed Soul we will be ultimately treated to.
Purchase Cherri V’s Brown Eyed Soul, Vol. 1 on iTunes here, and stream it below.
Words by Jay Tijani