“Younger,” Seinabo Sey’s first track — both chronologically and where it appears on her debut album, Pretend — was released almost two years ago, but it’s an apt mission statement for all of the Swedish singer’s music to come. Opening with a saturated keyboard riff that gradually builds to pure gospel highs, pitch-shifted R&B, and even what could pass for an EDM breakdown if it wasn’t built from soundtrack strings, the track refuses to be contained by one genre. Holding it all together, though, is the 25-year-old’s magnificent voice, and a palpable sense of urgency.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Considering how crowded and diverse the pop landscape has become in recent years, it can be a little tricky for an aspiring artist to carve out a niche for themselves. Luckily for Seinabo Sey, she possesses one important quality that helps set her apart: her voice. The 25-year-old singer-songwriter possesses an evocative voice that has drawn more than a few comparisons to Nina Simone.
?24-year-old Seinabo Sey sets the tone of Pretend in its opening track, “Younger”, chastising herself for not being where she hoped she would be by now, and asserting that now she really needs to play catch up. It’s an album of similar pep-talks and straight talking fairy godmother words-of-wisdom to combat the self-doubt, but it’s also on that doesn’t fully succeed in setting out what it inteded to do. Sey has said that she wants to break genre barriers, cross-pollinate and diversify the musical field so artists don't get pigeonholed into specific historically constructed sectors.
Sweden’s solo females tend to be electro-pop ice maidens; newcomer Seinabo Sey, by contrast, offers up big-picture, transatlantic soul-pop with some dance moves thrown in. When Stockholm’s answer to Emeli Sandé is good, as on Hard Time, or the title track, she is up there with the money-makers, making punchy night music that sounds as persuasive on the Fifa 16 soundtrack as it does in the video, in which Sey and a friend dance privately around a city at dawn. She sounds convincingly weary on Sorry, a piano ballad robbed of its natural gravitas by synth strings.
Seinabo Sey, with her motley take on pop, surely puts up with a lot of hyphenated descriptors. The singer-songwriter is Swedish-Gambian for starters, daughter of late musician Maudo Sey and his partner Madeleine Sundqvist. Then, there’s the issue of categorising her sound. As is the case with so many musicians of her age, the 25-year-old rummages around in a grab-bag of influences to make this tightly performed, if not slightly over-polished, debut.