Photo by Amanda Lopez

SassyBlack Swings Back

The R&B/soul singer flaunts a confident, sultry new sound on her new album.

SassyBlack’s frustrations with courtship were right there in the title of her album, No More Weak Dates. Constantly pulling the short end of the stick on the romantic front served as the thematic bedrock of Catherine Harris-White’s 2016 collection of psychedelic minimalist funk. But on her new record, New Black Swing (out June 23), not only has the musical style changed—love (and lust) are back in the picture.

New Black Swing plays with a more complex blend of sounds than its predecessor. Where Weak Dates had minimal instrumentals that recalled ’70s styles, NBS combines boom-bap drums with melodies from the era of Boys II Men and New Edition. By fusing the sounds of late ’80s and early ’90s new jack swing with her own cosmic, jazzy vocals and new-age tales of love, SassyBlack zeroes in on an intriguing new sound.

The creative blend ranges from slow-burning ballads like “Passion Paradise” to more up-tempo tracks like “I’ll Wait for You.” The latter has a smoky jazz-lounge feel, carried by SassyBlack’s voice seductively floating over the tune’s smooth rhythm. She pulls no punches and talks directly about making love. “Sitting in my room, I’m flushed with this feeling,” she sings, “Expecting soon, you’ll provide a sexual healing.” On “I’ll Wait for You,” she describes waiting for a lover playing games with her heart—the struggle of knowing they belong together despite being pulled apart—playing out over fluttery synths. “I want you to pull up,” she sings, “You’re over there talking all that stuff.”

The record’s highlight, “What We Gonna Do,” feels like a slice cut straight out of the early ’90s, evoking the sonic feel of SWV and the lyrical stylings of TLC, with a rap verse reminiscent of Left Eye on “Waterfalls.” The track manages to encapsulate the dance-pop feel of new jack swing, but stays true to SassyBlack as an artist, bringing in her soulful vocals and masterful command of her sexuality. “You don’t hear me though,” she raps, “and I ain’t a ho, I know what I like, and I love taking control.”

While tracks like “Glitches” feel closer to what we have heard from her in the past, New Black Swing on the whole does an excellent job of incorporating new elements into Sassyblack’s soulful repertoire, packed with gems like “Satisfied” that embrace this hybrid sound she’s made her own. The lyrics feel edgier than those in NMWD, so expect an even sassier, exciting SassyBlack if you get to see her live.

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