Written by Rahoul Naik
The last time we went in-depth with Surrey born James Vickery was back almost a year ago in our brilliant interview with the singer. Talking about his influences such as Eric Clapton and Aretha Franklin, as well as his peers like Joe Hertz and Disclosure; it is all visible in his first project, Complexion.
Vickery has had a very strong 2017 so far, with a bunch of singles and features coming throughout the year as breadcrumbs leading us to what is now his debut EP, including a cheeky feature from up-and-coming producing duo, Blue Lab Beats.
I think it would be best to start with the newest of the tracks, which comes in the form of, Complexion. Produced by Courage, Vickery takes the time to lay a whole load down on the difficulties of a relationship, the overthinking and the overestimating. He is essentially telling his girl that he wants to be her ‘complexion’ (not her skin tone); some would call it a modern day love song. The production value on the track really shines through with Courage utilising percussion, keys and more to build a Neo-Soul sound around Vickery’s voice.
We were first to pose the question of Vickery’s sonic direction, to which he answered that the Neo-Soul sound is something he is working with and that he felt there was space for an artist like him in that world. If Complexion doesn’t show that, then we’re unsure what really will. Taking sensibilities from current Neo-Soul stars such as Mahalia and NAO, whilst still creating his own lane, Vickery has just as much mainstream appeal for sure.
Next, we’ll take a minute to bring you, High Like, the Blue Lab Beats assisted track that I think will seriously help launch Vickery to a much wider audience. Being on Lemon Records (fronted by SG and Alex Lewis) has really helped Vickery in terms of getting on a bunch of Spotify playlists and more recently, becoming the face of Amazon Music’s US Introducing R&B playlist alongside the likes of Ella Mai and Ty Dolla $ign. The Blue Lab boys have worked with a bunch of top UK artists, which has helped them secure big things, including a packed out slot at this year’s Love Supreme festival.
Every single one of these guys gets to flex their muscles on this song and deservedly so. From the production, which incorporated the basis of Neo-Soul’s smooth synths and relaxing percussion, to Vickery’s use of his brilliantly controlled falsetto that is reminiscent of Pharrell or Justin Timberlake. I can hear this being spun on Radio 1, 1Xtra and even Capital. Yeah, that mainstream!
The final two songs of the EP, Lately and Alone, take a bit more of a sombre vibe, with Vickery’s skills on the guitar coming through and showing he is already more than ‘just a singer’. The former lends itself to the more ballad loving people amongst us as the vocal layering and long notes make it easy enough to harmonise with your friends in the car. The second track puts a much more upbeat take on going through a break-up and the heartbreak it brings with it. This song is for my people who are currently struggling through one and just need a bit of handholding to go with it.
It’s clear to see that throughout Vickery’s debut effort, the lyricism has been very strong and each song’s story is articulated brilliantly and intricately through the melodies and pockets Vickery finds.
Overall, this is a very good start from the young singer and although there are many ways he could improve from venturing out of his sound a bit more to perhaps adding some spice to his tracks with rap features, Complexion is Vickery’s business card and he is ready to start rolling it in.
Listen to the EP below: