ALBUM REVIEW: Waking at Dawn by Roy Woods
    • THURSDAY, JULY 07, 2016

    • Posted by: Jacob Swindell-Sakoor

    Even after being signed to OVO for about a year now, Roy Woods has followed in OVO's tradition by staying mysterious. Woods is known for his Drake-assisted single (which was also fantastic without the 6 god) "Drama" and we also know that the Brampton-born singer/MC is heavily inspired by Michael Jackson. Since his 2015 Exis EP we have yet to get a full-length album from Roy Woods until now. Can Woods follow in the footsteps of his well-known label peers Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR?

    On Sonic Boom we find Roy Woods singing about a drug-fueled night over an atmospheric pad and a mid-range electronic piano. From the start of this song you know that youre gonna go deep into OVO land. This song is a solid intro but comes off as another moody Toronto R&B influenced song.

    Roy Woods find his proper footing on the second track of Waking at Dawn and this song is sure as hell a sleeper hit. The song's production is simple as it uses a four chord structure on the piano to carry the groove. The usage of lowpass filtering at the beginning of the song is a nice touch and fits within the moody R&B aesthetic that Woods is known for. The vocal manipulation only further helps "You Love It" to feel like Woods could be another spiritual successor to The Weeknd as it harkens back to his House of Balloons days. Overall I love "You Love It".

    A dancehall inspired track in the middle of 2016? Highly original I know (thats sarcasm there, folks). Now, I know that seemingly everybody is riding the dancehall wave this year. I won't get too far into it but dancehall culture is getting pimped ya'll. "Gwan Big up Urself" uses mallet synths that would normally be found on a Beenie Man or Machel Montano album, but instead of using the typical dancehall drum pattern there's a switch between the expected and more "traditional". The chorus on this is also a blast to sing. It'll definitely be a great addition to party playlists throughout the summer. Although its blatantly riding the dancehall inspired pop wave, "Gwan Big up Urself" gets a pass from me.

    This song is Roy Woods' bread and butter. On "How I Feel" we get flex rapping seamlessly weaved into moody singing. The vocal arrangement on"How I Feel" is excellent as Woods' ad-libs truly shine through on this track. However, in terms of content offered, there just isn't much meat on these bones. Also, that synth melody that we're introduced to from the very beginning is everything. That's just how I feel right now.

    "Down Girl" is pretty self-explanatory based on the title. Roy Woods needs a woman who's down to indulge in his desires (and hopefully she's receiving the same from him, just saying). "Down Girl" is an uptempo jam that certainly get the single treatment since its chorus is inescapable. A relationship fueled on sex and drugs never sounded so endearing. Shout outs to you, Roy Woods.

    On "Switch" we hear Woods' aggressive MJ inspired tenor come into full effect as he talks about people from his past that treat him differently now that hes famous. The sub-bass heavy "Switch" feels like another run of the mill Roy Woods track until the chorus makes it truly memorable. The subtle addition of an electronic keyboard in the background of the mix is a nice touch for a song thats able to successfully rely on drums, bass, and Woods' vocal layering to carry majority of the track.

    GOT ME
    Could Roy Woods be the next Canadian pop star? On "Got Me" he shows the potential to be able to handle such a daunting task. While the verses are lackluster and contain lines such as "Momma, Im feeling your daughter" (so much ew), "Got Me" contains another infectious hook with production thats equally as memorable this time around. The usage of a filter gated pad with various synths coming in and out of the mix helps to keep things interesting, but it's the hook on "Got Me" that is truly memorable. This one definitely deserves to be a single.

    "Why" feels like Drake's "Hate Sleeping Alone" part two, but it's definitely an upgraded version from the Take Care bonus track. On this track we find some of Woods best lyrics. While the chorus isnt as catchy, its leftfield rhythm and deliver makes it unique. Woods is also able to display some beautiful harmonies on an otherwise very simple production backdrop. Admittedly, the instrumental initially left a lot to be desired in my heart, but halfway through the song I realized that its simplicity greatly helps to display Roy Woods vocal talents.

    "Menace" is one of the better songs on Waking at Dawn as it takes all the parts that make Roy Woods great, instead of solely focusing on one aspect we get all of them coming together like The Avengers. As the longest song on the album, "Menace" almost doesn't overstay its welcome. Four minutes is just enough time with a beat that has minimal changes throughout and contains Woods' simplistic lyrics. Everything works with "Menace" until the outro is introduced. While I'm normally a fan of the Houston inspired vocal pitching (or the scary movie voice for my non-audiophiles out there), something about it doesnt work with Woods voice. Admittedly its a minor critique for an otherwise good song, but hey you get what you came for am I right?

    From a production standpoint "She Knows About Me" is mainly a beautiful loop that uses pads that Noah "40" Shebib would surely cosign. At the usual motif with Waking at Dawn the chorus on "She Knows About Me" is excellent, the verses stumble at times, but what's most surprising is that Woods was able to keep my interest throughout as he sounds right at home on a style of production that has become one of OVOs staples. "She Knows About Me" is a standout on the album and closes what was otherwise a mixed bag at times.

    While Waking at Dawn isn't the perfect album, it shows promise for the OVO signee. There are strong cuts such as the lead single "Gwan Big up Urself" as well as "Got Me" and "She Knows About Me, but with songs like "How I Feel" and "Why," Waking at Dawn starts to become an obvious mixed bag. Admittedly Roy Woods freshman album isnt as good as his Exis EP which is a shame since he has so much potential.

    RATING: 3/5
    There's a lot of good material here but there's not much to be jealous of on Waking at Dawn (hopefully the Roy Woods fans get that one).

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