Deliberately built to induce a bit of tension right from the moment we press play forward, the beat behind the verses in Darrell Kelley’s new single “Kamala” is the undisputed centerpiece of the track. While the words are definitely enrapturing and do a good job of spotlighting one of the more significant and positive events to happen in 2020, Kelley has made it so that none of the verses they form would be nearly as weighty were they not backed by the hesitant groove. The bassline was made to move a mountain and a half, and here, it gets the chance to do this beside one of the sleeker synth melodies I’ve heard in a while.
The lyrics in “Kamala” are constructed around the hook instead of the other way around, but this isn’t to suggest the presence of some pop artificiality unbecoming of an alternative R&B cut. On the contrary, I think that the only real pop element in the mix is the sway of the percussion in the backdrop, which is both subtle but sturdy enough to make the vocal sound all the more potent when we need it the most. Kelley isn’t stingy about giving us instrumental indulgence where others would hold back, and that’s part of the reason why I’ve been as fascinated with his output as I have been lately.
Fluidity is essential to making a good vocal sound truly great, and in the case of “Kamala” we get a crooning from Darrell Kelley that never sounds stuffed into an uncomfortable box. The mix is tight enough as it is, compressing part of the low-end tones with the percussion to leave maximum space for our singer to really strut up top, and he has no issues utilizing every inch of it with a warm, inviting vocal becoming of a pop veteran.
Instrumentally, this track is definitely a fair balance of vibrant rhythm and fanciful melodic ribbonry, and I particularly like that nothing sounds recycled from another corner of the music industry. Although Kelley has never said as much, I think he’s been committed to staying on the alternative end of the spectrum since first dropping his debut, and in a performance like that which we get in “Kamala,” he reasserts himself as a non-establishment player who can deliver the best parts of mainstream musicianship without any of the plasticity that frequently plagues the FM dial.
Darrell Kelley once again proves that he sports as sharp a songwriter’s wit as they come in this most recent single, and if you have the chance to give it a spin this January I think you’re going to be very pleased with what he’s produced. There wasn’t a lot of good news to report on in 2020, whether in reference to music, politics or just the status of world culture overall, but sifting through the darkness to find a little bit of light on the other side is precisely what makes this man’s songcraft so easy to get into. He’s added another fine track to his discography here, and I think other critics and fans will agree.
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