Kadhja Bonet’s newest offering is a jazzy, psychedelic-soul record that even those unfamiliar to the genre will likely admire. The Los Angeles based singer-songwriter made a splash in 2015 with her debut single, “Remember the Rain” quickly accruing millions of streams. She followed this in 2016 with her relatively short LP The Visitor. Childqueen is a more mature effort, one that represents an extensive period of hard work and attention to detail. It manifests in meticulous arrangements, superb harmonies and, on occasion, experimental segments. This album conveys many concepts through storytelling, covering themes of responsibilities, love, motivation and relationships, with Bonet’s dream-like voice acting as the perfect medium to transfer these ideas. Childqueen is not a record that hits with power, but it is certainly infectious and considered. Bonet’s brilliance is embodied through the sole performance of every instrument herself, the accomplished production and the overall smooth listen.
“Procession” starts the record in line with its name, quickly familiarising the listener with Bonet’s dense vocal harmonisation, while staying short enough to set the scene of the rest of the album. The daring chants of “Every morning gives a chance to renew, chance to renew” placed slightly above the anthemic, military style bass and drum duo, reveal the singer’s perspective and mindset on Childqueen. The track modulates to an unmemorable flute section, before returning to its bouncing, yet sombre groove, drawing us in to the rest of the album. The following (title) track is a string-heavy slow jam which incorporates short phrasings, a simpler instrumentation and even overdubbed bird calls to create a vivid, spaced-out piece. The song introduces the use of a pealing glockenspiel, a common recurrence in the remaining tracks, which offsets the usually darker tones found elsewhere on the album. The rhythm of Bonet’s delivery features lilting shifts from short, separated syllables to gliding falsetto, enchanting the listener to follow along.
The 10/4 intro of “Another Time Lover” captures the listener’s attention, signalling the arrival of the catchier cuts on this record. As an 80s pop-rock groove locks in, the sporadic vocals further highlight the beautiful, trill heavy chorus, with its double-tracked vocals and half time bars further immersing the listener in the sonic bliss of Bonet. The notions of relationships and circumstance are questioned in lyrics such as “another time, another place”, while the childlike qualities of mouths popping and a lively, arpeggiated synth track further project these lyrics.
The lead single of Childqueen, “Delphine”, is a slower and darker piece, with a delayed snare and airy vocals creating a heavily ambient atmosphere for Bonet to give fleeting glances into the intricacies of her voice – here presented with well-crafted harmonies. Though some may see this lengthy track as somewhat tiring and self-indulgent, its sparse landscape leaves little to obscure Bonet’s voice, making “Delphine” the perfect stage on which to showcase Bonet’s talent. The following cuts “Thoughts Around Tea”, “Joy” and “Wings” are well-crafted tracks with a more classic soul sound – the latter progressing from an ambling bass line to segments of solo string arrangements. While the track does become a tad repetitive due to its scarcely-changing progression, the track continues to highlight the singer’s clear, dreamy vocals, as she offers her perspectives on childhood and crisis (“I only wish to understand, the power in my hands”).
“Mother Maybe” is, arguably, the highest point on the record, with its jazzed-out synth stabs and more complex drum part forming a timely shift on the album. A key change after the two-minute mark, soaring post-chorus sighs and staccato instrumentation create yet another enjoyable and memorable moment towards the back end of the album. The ending of this song runs to the top of Bonet’s range, further showing her inspiring ability and talent. In “Second Wind”, the snappy timbre of drums, sweeping violin and a precise, yet simple melody, together reinforce Bonet’s virtuosity and talent, as well as her dedication and patience. The album draws to a close with the skittered chord choices of “Nostalgia”, mellowed out by a precise flute arrangement. A truly haunting yet optimistic vocal melody stretches the perception of consonance within the foundation of the bass guitar. “Nostalgia” completes the album not in a ferocious or energetic way, but in a more introspective and tranquil manner.
All things considered, Kadhja Bonet invokes a sense of contentment in her dreamy vocals, showing that this individual effort has been a personal success. Childqueen is an admirable release offering so much to new and longtime fans of the genre alike. Bonet’s intricate compositions and superbly smooth voice are melded here on Childqueen, forming a record suitable for times of joy, peaceful bliss or introspective contemplation.