As the sound of a record needle flutters over the opening bars to “This World,” the entrance track off of Selah Sue’s self-titled full-length debut, a sense of reggae spirituality is first engrained in the listener’s ear. Instrumentally, it presents itself within the relationship between the deep driving bass, the swelling organ, each muted horn feature and the in-the-pocket drum tempo that structure this style. Selah Sue reaffirms this authenticity through her rhythmic vocal style and rooted lyrics, much relationship-based throughout the record. The music itself is a representation of diverse and thorough production, and has proven to be an impressive debut from small town native in Belgium, thousands of miles from Kingston.
On “Raggamuffin,” Selah Sue uses her voice in varying rhythms to match the expression in the modes of the piece. It’s this method that carries itself within her style of singing and individualizes her personality as a musician. “Please” features the preacher soul-felt voice of Cee Lo Green, who exudes a great confidence in his verses, a quality equally matched by Selah Sue in adjoining stanzas. The swirling organ and brass complement the separate vocal styles and build up the height of the piece. Across the record, Selah Sue uses her voice in whispering textures found behind the primary vocals, an interesting layer that adds gives a hidden edge to the lyrics. And while some tracks take on aggressive tempos and vocal patterns, Selah Sue saves room to show the more delicate side with softer acoustic-based pieces like “Mommy” and “Break.”
As a musician and performer Selah Sue is very expressive in her delivery, and it’s this physicality that adds to her trueness as an artist shown here in her debut. Production-wise, this record excels in showing diversity in beat structure and instrumental makeup, especially supported by the creative collaboration with Fugees producer, Jerry Duplessis. Keep an eye on the horizon for this rising talent who is increasingly gaining momentum, she might just be “pretty much what you’re lookin’ for.”