There's a timeless groove to the R&B of Yuna on her fourth album Rouge, one that's been two years in the making. It's the most ambitious project the songwriter has ever taken on, and the first album she's putting out as a fully realized woman. It's also an LP that she worked harder than ever on, re-visiting songs, editing them down, adding new layers, enriching every single moment to make it the most luscious musical experience for her audience. Yuna makes soulful pop that contains the sultriness of Sade, the flair of Aaliyah, and the sweetness of Brandy. There are clear forebears upon her art, but her story is so singular that it's hard to draw a line in the sand when it comes to Yuna's lineage in the urban pop spectrum.
Via her three pre-existing albums, Yuna has built her palette of melodic, uplifting soul. Her third album Chapters in 2016 was something of a breakthrough, featuring production from Fisticuffs and features with Usher ("Crush") and Jhene Aiko. They were formative and exciting experiences, but she's flexing her collaborative muscles even more now. The list of features on Rouge is mouth-wateringly impressive. It includes: Little Simz, Kyle, G-Eazy, Jay Park and Masego. The rappers have taken Yuna by surprise the most. She wasn't sure she conceived of her music as fitting that vibe before.
Lyrically, the album is rooted in her emotional experience. "The music that I write has to be something that I understand," she says. "I wanna have songs that have humanity, that people can relate to. As I grow older, it's important to write songs that are empowering." Take the track "Likes" which is about her relationship with social media; how it's left her feeling stuck between two worlds. "Who's this Muslim kid? She's Malaysian but she's Americanized. I'm not Malaysian enough, I'm not American enough. What am I? Even though that situation is very unique other people can relate to it. It has a very empowering message. I'm still me."
"I've always wanted to make a very classy album," she continues describing the new LP. "It's like one of those vinyls that you listen to from the ‘70s." Together with executive producer Robin Hannibal and team of producers (Jason "J. Lbs" Pounds, Fisticuffs, Cardiak, Jordan Reyes) she explored sampling culture for the first time. The title Rouge is for the color red, which has been calling to her at this moment. "It's a feeling I'm having right now. I just got married. I've become the woman I've always wanted to be. The whole album is about how I am with myself: I'm comfortable with my relationship, with my focus on my career. It's the color of becoming this woman that I am."
2. Blank Marquee
3. (Not) The Love Of My Life
4. Teenage Heartbreak
5. Pink Youth
6. Forget About You
9. Does She