ILYAH’s single “Habibi” is the latest release from a Boston based performer who fills his musical work with a number of influences while still impressing his individuality upon anyone who cares to pay attention. He began his career posting vocal performances to YouTube and established a small but intensely loyal following before landing a spot on the popular American television music competition The Voice. Building careers is often a series of steps and his appearance on The Voice led to the next step in his career when Jeff Timmons, founding member of the group 98 Degrees, felt impressed enough with his talents to draft his services into Timmons’ new boyband project Overnight. He’s sure to make a big difference on the group’s potential and their fortunes, but his solo music deserves notice as well.
“Habibi” has a lot of flavor and no one else working today is making music like this. He utilizes both English and French lyrics without ever losing his stride and the seamless transition from the verses into the choruses is the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from far more veteran performers. The electronic percussion provides a strong rhythm for ILYAH to wrap his vocal around and the light keyboard and synth touches throughout the performance bring nearly as much color to the track as the video.
It would be hard to equal the colorful nature of the video. He crosses the same cultural lines in the video that he does in the song itself and it comes off without a hitch. If this DIY, then any indie musician and performer should follow his lead because the level of professional polish in the music video for “Habibi” is top notch in every respect. The costuming, location filming, and ILYAH’s physical engagement with the performance makes this an arresting performance that never feels overextended.
“Miscommunication” is another powerful single. The video is a bit different from ILYAH’s usual efforts in this area as he attempts to tell a genuine story that conforms to the lyrical content in a meaningful way. It has another worthwhile chorus, not as impressive as what we hear with the recent single, but it is nonetheless a lynchpin moment in our appreciation of this performance. The use of electric guitar in this cut further marks it as a much different musical experience than the usual ILYAH performances.
“Girls Like You” is a much different effort. It begins with a lengthy and near ambient introduction heavy on atmospherics before the song begins in full and its steady bubble holds your attention for the whole tune. His R&B influences are on full display with this performance and the video is another stylish visual companion piece. ILYAH has musical talent galore and you get the feeling hearing these songs that he’s just now beginning to grasp his own capabilities. His future work will likely outstrip the fine songs he offers here, but it won’t diminish their importance. We’re hearing the first stirrings of a major talent when we hear these singles and should be grateful that there’s much more to come.
After seeing and listening to Ilyah for myself, I believe he’s the next Justin Timberlake for the future generation.