Liner Notes: It’s “NEVER ENOUGH” for Daniel Caesar in album of sonic experimentation


Illustration by Beatrice Villaflor

Daniel Caesar’s newest album, “NEVER ENOUGH” was released Friday.

Beatrice Villaflor, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

With “NEVER ENOUGH,” R&B artist Daniel Caesar creates a sonic space and shift in tone and genre from his critically acclaimed album “Freudian” by presenting listeners with a new collection of dichotomies within each narrative. 

Caesar released his highly anticipated new album Friday with a tracklist full of thematic opposites — like loving and losing, despair and hope. But, Caesar’s commanding and dynamic voice centers it all. From his falsetto in opener “Ocho Rios” to his confident croon in closer “Unstoppable,” his technique reaches new heights in his latest work.

Caesar’s new musical stylings are most notable in singles “Valentina” and “Do You Like Me?” Both showcase Caesar exploring unfamiliar techniques, such as his incorporation of percussion-heavy melodies and the unorthodox cadence in his vocal delivery. It pays off. 

Lyrically, the exploration of faithfulness hearkens to prior songs “Neu Roses (Transgressor’s Song)” and “Hold Me Down” in “Freudian.” In “Valentina,” Caesar sings, “I only need one moment of time to make you feel a way,” and though the song’s narrative remains inconclusive, he clearly intends to influence the listener to share in his pain.  

While Caesar has no shortage of sexual imagery in his tracks, he yearns for a genuine connection in the vulnerable “Do You Like Me?.” Caesar asks a potential lover: “Do I titillate your mind?” The verses’ beautiful harmonies mirror Caesar’s conflicting thoughts as he ponders the future of a relationship. 

The album is broken up by the emotive ballad “Always,” in which Caesar assures his romantic interest that his devotion is not a phase. While not the most unique topic, Caesar’s earnestness comes through lyrically and makes it a welcome addition to the album.

“Buyer’s Remorse” is a personal favorite. The track speaks to resentment built up toward the person you’re committed to — a theme often unexplored in love songs. Though it is not the most melodically inventive song on the album, “Buyer’s Remorse” is the most thematically nuanced. The lyrics “It’s not what I slaved for,” are contrasted with “I wouldn’t dare to change how I feel about you” solidify the track as a shift in the album’s narrative. 

Standouts like “Buyer’s Remorse” highlight Caesar’s artistry but become muddled or hidden in a sea of lackluster tracks. In the latter half of the album, Caesar’s creative sound becomes inconsistent, albeit with a well-produced beat in the background. 

“Shot My Baby” likens itself to SZA’s “Kill Bill” given its narrative of killing one’s ex but is devoid of the latter’s tenderness within such a vengeful sentiment. Similarly, the twelfth track “Homiesexual,” despite having one of the most unique titles on the album, falls flat in its bitter and vulgar dissection of a girl who has moved on from her connection to Caesar.  

The string of disappointments do not end with the penultimate song “Superpowers.” While different from Caesar’s usual exploration of love and lust’s complexities, the piece’s verses are repetitive and offer little substance to the artist’s oeuvre. 

The album concludes with “Unstoppable,” a slight improvement from prior tracks that still leaves something to be desired from the soulful singer. The closing track lyrically emphasizes Caesar’s struggle to solidify a relationship by covering both love and loss, but musically accentuates his limits, all while the album concludes with overused instrumentals listeners have become accustomed to. 

This album had high expectations to live up to the praise Caesar received after the release of its predecessor “Freudian.” But throughout the tracklist, the Canadian singer does not let outside pressures impact the breadth of his sonic experimentation on this album. 

When his new endeavors work, they astonish. At some points in “NEVER ENOUGH,” Caesar astounds and impresses listeners with his vocal talents and poignant lyricism. 

Still, Caesar struggles to create a cohesive concept to thread his 15 tracks together, leaving listeners unsatisfied.

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Twitter: @beatricedvilla

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