Solaris - EP

Solaris - EP

When Shay Lia made her annual family visit to the Ivory Coast for Christmas 2019, the Montreal singer had already begun planning the follow-up to her first release from earlier that year, Dangerous. At the time, Lia was working on demos that were rooted in the cool, clubby future-soul sound that she had first cultivated through her collaborations with super-producer KAYTRANADA and further refined on her Polaris Prize-longlisted debut. But when her vacation ended, she opted to use her next project to musically extend it. “It was so sunny there in Abidjan,” Lia tells Apple Music, “and I was listening to Beyoncé's Lion King and a lot of Afrobeats and reggae music—it was really hard for me to focus on the prior vibe.” So upon returning home, she connected with a team of producers—including Haitian DJ Michael Brun and rising Nigerian beatmakers SESS and Phantom—who would add tropical flavor to her sweet R&B melodies, whether that meant teeing up a rocksteady rhythm with a sample of Junior Senior’s 2002 brass-blasted bop “Move Your Feet” (“Irrational”) or dropping her into the middle of a Lagos discotheque (“High Up”). And as COVID-19 began to force everyone indoors in early 2020, Lia’s mission to make breezy, sunny jams became all the more necessary. As she explains, “I really tried to translate all the things that I felt when I was in Abidjan with my family by the beach, living my best life. If you live in a sunny place, then this is the perfect soundtrack for it, and if you don't, then the sound can be your sun. That's why it's called Solaris—it's music of the sun. It's all about warmth.” Here, Lia invites you to strap on your shades for a track-by-track survey of Solaris’ radiant R&B. Irrational “We were in New York City with Michael Brun and the cowriter, Modesty Lycan, and when Michael played this beat, I went crazy—I knew it'd be a major hit right away, especially with that sample. I would have never thought that I would sing to a beat like that. But then I came up with the melodies, and when it was time to write the lyrics, it was just so much fun being in the studio with them that I didn't want to go for something that would be too dark or sad. It's a very playful song—it's about that irrational phase when you're in love and it's kind of toxic but we like it...until we don't!” Mais Oui “The beat is definitely baile funk/Brazilian pop. For this one, again, I wanted to do something completely different. It's very theatrical to me—every time I listen to it, I feel like I'm onstage with an army of dancers and it's very extra. 'Mais Oui' is about reputation, it's about being confident and preserving your positive vibes and telling that bad person to leave you alone.” High Up “I wrote these songs during quarantine, and for most of them, I didn't want to make any reference to that. But with 'High Up,' I really wanted to start with that idea, because I was very anxious, and I still am sometimes. So I wanted the music to be the soundtrack of two people that need to escape the world. This was produced by Phantom from Nigeria, and it's 100 percent Afrobeats. I really wanted to do a song like that, because it's also a different vibe for me, but the melodies are R&B for most of my songs, so I feel like there's a signature there. On this one, I feel like I'm by the beach, feeling like a goddess. This one is more sexual and sensual than the other songs—I picture two beautiful black bodies having sex, but in a very poetic way.” All Up to You “Lyrically, this is the one that is the most linked to our current situation, so I needed for the lyrics to be extra positive. Words have power, and when we go on tour and sing all these songs every night, I think they truly have an impact on our brains. So I always like having a song or two that's like a positive affirmation. I do it for myself first, because I need it, and singing it makes me believe in all these things. So there's a lot of harmonies, and it has that anthemic vibe that I was looking for. If I was onstage, I would invite everyody to sing it with me.” Love Me, Love Me Not “This one is a real nice blend between the R&B melodies that kind of even sound like 'Rock the Boat' from Aaliyah—very airy, very feminine—with this kind of Latin groove that I love. Most of the time, when it comes to these songs about being ‘alone in the friend zone,’ it's always guys who sing or rap about it. And I was like, ‘Why not do it from a female perspective, but also be super sexy doing it and not be too sad?’ I feel like it's quite empowering for women, especially if you're considered attractive, to just say it. Vulnerability is a strength.”

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