In her first half-decade as a recording artist, Jessie Reyez’s strikingly unvarnished voice and take-no-prisoners candor earned her collaborations with the likes of Beyoncé, Eminem, and 6LACK, and a Top 10 spot on Billboard’s R&B charts for her 2020 debut LP, BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US. But the Toronto singer’s proximity to pop’s A-list has done little to buff away the jagged edges of her open-diary confessionals. Her second album, YESSIE, wastes no time drawing lines in the sand: “I get along with most men more than I do with some women,” she declares at the start of “MOOD,” before taking down fair-weather friends with her machine-gun flow, pitch-shifted hooks, and a skin-thickening mantra—“life ain’t easy!”—that she wears like armor. Even the album’s most soothing beatscapes are littered with lyrical landmines, as she lays into a cheating ex amid the breezy, finger-snapped backdrop of “QUEEN ST. W” and transforms the string-plucked soul of “MUTUAL FRIEND” into a slasher-flick soundtrack with each lacerating one-liner. This is a record whose idea of an uplifting chorus is “If you died tomorrow/I don’t think I’d cry.” Many R&B singers seek to mend their broken heart; Reyez prefers to pick at the scabs, open up the wounds, and wince from the pain to prove she has the strength to withstand it.

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