By Christopher Brocker
Scarborough, Toronto R&B duo Dvsn returns for their third studio album A Muse In Her Feelings. The duo consist of singer Daniel Daley and producer Paul Jefferies who is known as Nineteen85. Dvsn is signed to OVO Sound which is a label co-founded by Drake. Nineteen85 has notably produced some of Drake’s biggest hits in “Hotline Bling” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”
It’s been roughly two and a half years since Dvsn’s last release Morning After, their second studio album. Since then, Dvsn has appeared on fellow label mate Roy Woods’ album on the song “Balance.” Dvsn also released six singles of their own and five of which made the final cut.
Toronto has become a mecca for contemporary R&B that has taken on a sound that includes spacey trap production, reverb, 90s R&B samples and autotune vocals. This sound which derived from Kanye West’s album 808’s & Heartbreak has inspired a new generation of artists. Drake and The Weeknd progressed this sound in their earlier work and have maintained those elements in their music today.
This new take on R&B has been adopted by Toronto artists such as Partynextdoor, Tory Lanez, and Roy Woods. However, this sound has not stayed exclusively in Toronto. Louisville, Kentucky native Bryson Tiller’s debut album Trapsoul encapsulated the sound and even gave it a name. Trapsoul made huge waves in the scene in 2015 and even attracted Drake to recruit Tiller to OVO. However, Tiller declined and signed to RCA.
Dvsn has paved a lane within this resurgence of R&B that leans more toward traditional R&B. Daley’s vocals are less manipulated which has highlighted his talent. However, on A Muse In Her Feelings, Daley has taken center stage and proven that he may have the best vocals in Toronto.
The opening song “No Good” is a breakup track where Daley details his feelings about a lover he regrets losing. He questions what he did to upset his former partner while also pondering his own feelings about love. “No Good” is forgettable to me although it has appeal.
“Friends” which features label mate Party, leans more toward the contemporary trap R&B sound. Party and Daley softly croon over a slow rolling drum pattern. The lyrics vaguely detail a relationship in which both singers encourage their lover not to focus on the opinions of their friend groups. The song doesn’t overstay its welcome and is suitable for a late night ride. However, Daley seems to hold back on this track not to outshine Party. Although the song is enjoyable and Party gives an adequate performance, the song could have amounted to more if Dvsn had taken full control.
The following track “Still Pray for You” is another short track where Daley sings about the effects of fame in his personal relationships. It’s a heartfelt moment on that album that could have benefited from an extension. “Courtside” is my least favorite song on the album as the vocals from Jessie Reyez basically ruin it. The childlike vocal manipulation of her vocals make the song unlistenable. The line “Cause she ain’t there for games unless they’re courtside” is a nice Instagram caption.
“No Cryin” featuring Future was one of the singles off the album and also is where the project picks up momentum. Future is very hit or miss as an artist but when he hits he seems unstoppable. His performance on “No Cryin” is similar to his album “HNDRXX” where Future takes a more introspective and melodic presence. The collaboration between DVSN and Future works here. Daley utilized autotune vocals to match Future here to blend their sounds. The sample from PTAF is a nice touch as well.
“Dangerous City” is one of the high points on the entire project. Daley dips into his falsetto here and shows off his vocal range. Ty Dolla Sign also makes an appearance where his signature raspy voice serves as a nice contrast to Daley. Daley also sings in patois in the second verse. Reggae and dancehall veteran Buju Banton lends his voice here giving a commendable performance and his cosign.
Popcaan, also a dancehall and reggae star, is featured on “So What.” Popcaan is a new OVO signee who collaborated on Drake’s “Controlla.” “So What,” similar to “Dangerous City,” is an example of a perfect blend of dancehall and contemporary R&B. This blend has been pursued by OVO members for years now and has been very hit or miss.
“’Flawless’ Do It Well, Pt.3” is another standout moment on the project where Daley sings to his lover basically hyping her up. The lyrics and interludes suggest that Daley is singing to a stripper. The beat incorporates a bounce element that was heard before on Drake’s “Nice For What.” This rendition of the New Orleans bounce utilizes the sound more sparingly and Daley’s vocals are the main focus.
Nineteen85 uses a popular sample in 702’s “Get It Together.” Summer Walker also sang over this sample on her last project Over It which was a huge success. Walker gives a great performance here and is very comfortable in this lane.
“Between Us” was one of the singles from this album however it includes the chorus and first verse from Dvsn’s single “In Between.” “Between Us” features Snoh Aalegra and samples Usher’s “Nice & Slow.” This is one of the stronger songs on the entire album and Aalegra gives a great performance which isn’t surprising considering the success of her last album Ugh, those feels again.
“A Muse” was another single from this album that samples “A Garden of Peace” by Lonnie Liston Smith. This sample is commonly recognized from Jay Z’s “Dead Presidents II.” “A Muse” was my favorite single from the album and is the most similar to what Dvsn has done in the past. The latter stretch of “A Muse In Her Feelings” shows the strengths of Dvsn.
“For Us” is a slow and heartfelt ballad that solidifies Daley’s vocal ability. Inspiration from Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” is apparent. Daley proves here that he has the best vocals on OVO. Daley’s layered vocals and falsetto serve as my favorite moment on the entire album. The following track “…Again” picks up where Dvsn left off with another beautiful ballad.
Nineteen85 includes a nod to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” in the drum pattern. Fellow Scarborough native Shantel May comes out of nowhere with the best vocal performance from any featured artist on the album. May truly shines on this outro and shows the promise she has as an emerging artist.
With the release of The Weeknd’s After Hours, Party’s PartyMobile and Drake’s viral hit “Toosie Slide,” Dvsn has been overshadowed. However, A Muse In Her Feelings is the most interesting project released from OVO since If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. The album could have been condensed and the first half of the album doesn’t live up to the second half.
Ninetee85 however, shows ambition with his experimentation in production which pays off. Daley displays his vocal range but also his versatility as an artist. Dvsn without a doubt is making some of the best music in R&B. Dvsn has also left some of their contemporaries at OVO in the dust.