BY AHLIA DUNN ’20
Toronto R&B singer-songwriter Daniel Caesar’s debut EP, “Freudian,” is a journey through love and human error set to bluesy, gospel-inspired tracks. The 10-track album, released on Aug. 27, fits right into the neo-soul revival bringing soulful sounds to a mainstream audience.
“Freudian” is a love letter, a simple yet fully realized look at love and romance. At only 22 years old, Caesar is defining his generation, swapping out fussy synth-full production for soulful, instrument-heavy love songs.
In a note to the magazine The FADER, Caesar wrote, “I’ve never been as proud about anything I’ve created in my whole life. This body of work is about examining my most complex feelings and thoughts more directly. I’m more exposed than ever on this album. It’s like I’m in therapy, but it’s on display.”
The album is the musical embodiment of the ups and downs in relationships. The first tracks “Get You” and “Best Part” are idyllic. Sappy yet smooth ballads, featuring artist Kali Uchis and H.E.R., respectively, sound like new love without being cloying or sickly sweet. Caesar utilizes these songstresses to move the story, as they portray the women of the album. “I wanted the whole thing to feel like a conversation. I’m creating the woman who I’m talking to in my mind,” said Caesar to NowToronto.
“Hold Me Down” returns to Caesar’s religious roots but the song’s message is far from holy. Depicting a grittier love/hate relationship, the track sees Caesar’s relationship take a turn with a chorus of “First you love me then you leave me on the pavement.” The cleverly titled, “Neu Roses,” marks the beginning of the relationship’s downfall.
“Loose” finds Caesar post-love and nostalgic. The track offers listeners advice about letting go of love when one person isn’t ready to commit. “Loose” outros into an acapella for “We Find Love,” a farewell to a relationship reminiscent of a Sunday morning church service. Lyrics like “We find love / we get up / and we fall down / we give up” are delightfully evocative.
“Blessed” is a thankful ode to a thankless love. The song depicts Caesar yearning for love from someone who knows him best, a love now long expired. The chorus of “Yes, I’m a mess / but I’m blessed / to be stuck with you” is powerful. The lyrics are not bitter or hateful, only nostalgic and grateful for the chance to have loved and been loved; a message different from many existing modern break-up songs.
A standout on the album, if only for its difference in message, is “Take Me Away,” featuring Syd. This track is less tender than others on the album but still resonates with Caesar’s personal brand of romance. Caesar finds solace and in temporary love, giving beauty to the casual hook-up in a way only Caesar could.
The title track is the least dreamy of all. Missing the fantasy of the preceding tracks, “Freudian” is Caesar’s honest and appreciative dedication to “the one.” Opening “You are the reason / the reason I sing,” Caesar does not feel hostility or pain, only closure.
In an age of independent artists like Chance the Rapper, Cardi B. and Frank Ocean, it isn’t surprising to see Caesar’s raw talent resulting in acclaim. Caesar wanted to preserve his vision without industry interference.
“At this point, signing to a label . . . would be a bad business decision. We all believed in [the album], but I’ve had a lot of help,” said Caesar. “I got to make this with my friends. It’s just us, no label, so it makes it that much more special.”
Despite being an independent artist, Caesar and his music are no stranger to industry giants like Apple Music and Billboard, who have helped premiere the album.
It’s difficult to choose one song on the album as the star. Every track shines on its own while all coalescing into Caesar’s hazy fever dream of intoxicating vocals and passionate lyrics. “Although the album is very much about love, I wanted it to not just be about that,” he explains. “I’d like to, as time goes on, write about more complex things.” Though the album and its tracks feel like the culmination of Caesar’s whole life, “Freudian” is but one chapter in his career.