NEVER ENOUGH (Bonus Version)

NEVER ENOUGH (Bonus Version)

If there’s one thread that runs through Daniel Caesar’s twisty path over his first decade as a recording artist, it’s his restless creativity. So it’s fitting that the Canadian neo-soul singer followed his first chart-topping single—alongside Justin Bieber on 2022’s “Peaches”—and signing to Republic Records with his most experimental album to date. While Caesar was hardly stingy with his emotional outpourings and philosophical musings on the album’s two predecessors—2017’s Freudian and 2019’s CASE STUDY 01—NEVER ENOUGH may be his most avidly personal work. Holed up during the pandemic in his home studio near Toronto, Caesar created the building blocks for the songs largely by himself. This solitary process freed him up to integrate many new elements, from folky guitar passages and fragments of cosmic country to psychedelic grooves and passages so chill, they’re ready to disintegrate. The ways Caesar uses his soft, lilting voice may be the most dramatic aspect of NEVER ENOUGH, with the singer variously layering, treating, and tweaking his vocals until they’re sometimes barely recognizable. Even after he incorporates the handiwork of the many luminaries who join him behind the desk and on the mike—including Mark Ronson on “Pain Is Inevitable,” serpentwithfeet on “Disillusioned,” and Omar Apollo on “Buyer’s Remorse”—the final results can feel unapologetically weird and woozy. At the same time, Caesar’s combination of mellow melodicism and aching vulnerability is as potent as ever. A collaboration with Raphael Saadiq, “Do You Like Me?” matches the hazy, off-kilter charm of early-‘70s Sly & The Family Stone with the left-field spirit of New Amerykah-era Erykah Badu. On “Homiesexual,” Caesar enlists Ty Dolla $ign to help him sort out his tumult of emotions about an ex-lover over a musical backing that’s two parts sultry slow jam to one part gospelized funk. However frayed and fried they may be, Caesar’s compelling songs are born of many competing ideas and instincts that add up to a coherent vision of 21st-century R&B.

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