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WPGM Recommends: Durand Bernarr – Wanderlust (Album Review)

The best artists the world has to offer have a strong desire to travel to parts of themselves that others are too afraid to go. These artists package the feedback from their travels with sultry, poetic vocals and unfading murmurs of basslines carrying the stories told from a slow start to an epic finish.

How artists tell the stories of their travels have changed over the years, with authenticity and relatability being the vital metrics that measure the resonance of the message. Whenever Durand Bernarr releases a project, he intends to be indulgent, reminiscent, and hopeful. In his latest album release, Wanderlust, he added a stank eye and sassy bubblegum pop to drive his message home.

Durand Bernarr is an R&B/Soul vocalist, born and raised in a musical family from Cleveland, Ohio. He was raised among music excellence, touring with Earth, Wind & Fire as a production assistant at the age of 16.

Durand has never been camera or stage-shy, singing and dancing for his YouTube audience at the start of his career. His charisma and pitch-perfect pipes lead him to release two compilation EPs, with one of them gaining the attention of the Queen of Neo-Soul, Erykah Badu.

Bernarr’s ballad-ready alto is the perfect mixture between D’Angelo and Nate Dogg, successfully collaborating with Canadian DJ Kaytranda, American band The Internet, and R&B crooner Ari Lennox. Durand is an entertainment marvel, swaying seamlessly from low tones to high pitches without breaking a sweat or a bone in his throat.

He is a frequent guest on Stevie Mackey’s live performance event called Taco Tuesday and flawlessly covered Daniel Casear’s Get You, and his feature ‘Freefall’ from Kaytranada’s Grammy-award-winning album, BUBBA.

After an eight-year-long hiatus, Durand released his second studio album, Dur&, in 2020. The project featured vocals by Ari Lennox and singer Anna Wise, who helped package his quirky monologues and attractive honesty into a successful R&B album.

He does not have many official features on all of his projects, adding to the idiosyncratic nature of his artistic persona. This unapologetic confidence in himself and his voice is carried over into his latest release, Wanderlust, which dares the listener to evolve.

His new record Wanderlust is an R&B, funk, disco fusion album that feels like a celebration of the good old days and the better days to come. The 12-track album contains scattered messaging that somehow leads to one conclusion; take a trip and evolve.

There is a go-with-the-flow aspect to the structure of the album, with funk and disco tracks appearing in between the soulful songs. Initially, it might feel distracting to the trained ear but it is distinctive and on-brand with Durand’s evolutionary crusade when creating this album.

Durand leans heavily on themes of love, loss, and longing across all the genres included in the album. Without fail, he liberates and tames his falsetto to match the mood of the song in question, ensuring that its melody remains moody.

The single “Lil Bit” is a hilarious but genius commentary on the role that looks play in romantic partnerships, and Durand puts his I-said-what-I-said spin on it. He speaks his truth fiercely and unapologetically, clarifying his needs and wants as he continuously journeys through life in a stagnant world.

There are fresh sounds for lovers of 80s disco and 90s funk, but Durand’s monologues and ballads are the standouts of the project. “Leveled” oozes thick amounts of neo-soul, from the song’s acoustic sounds to the mesmerizing harmonies in the catchy hook towards the end of the song. It is clear that he settled into a mood with this song, and wants to inspire the listener to do the same.

He wants to find his place in “Vacancy”, pitching and slowing down the song’s groove with the desolate repetition of the hook “Is there any more room for me”. The album takes an alternative R&B turn with “H.I.”. Durand laments speaking to a love interest and getting high with them. It is a textbook slow jam that has an old-school feel with contemporary jazz elements that push it to the next level.

The risks Durand took with the choices he made in the album are a testament to his confidence and trust in his community. His audience has embraced every eccentric bone in his body, allowing him to deliver music that never deviates from his truth. The replay value of this album is good and gives the listener a soundtrack for every mood.

Listen to Duran Bernarr’s Wanderlust album below and stream it everywhere else here.

Words by Nonjabulo Malinga

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