Singing about heartache over retro-soul backdrops is an approach that has been thoroughly mined and mastered in the last decade, most notably by the late Amy Winehouse and James Brown revivalists Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. San Diego native Andra Day, who kickstarted her career by posting R&B takes of songs by Eminem and Muse on YouTube, ably attempts a similar sound on her debut, Cheers to the Fall, touting collaborations with Raphael Saadiq.
At times, she so closely resembles Winehouse that it’s hard to tell where Back to Black ends and Cheers to the Fall begins, particularly on the twinkling “Goodbye Goodnight,” where Day wails in near-perfect intonation. But she shouldn’t be dismissed as a carbon copy — the LP, inspired by an eight-year relationship’s end, is too genuinely intentioned and rife with regret. It’s hard not to sympathize when she bemoans “I should have known that I’d lose everything” on orchestral ballad “Red Flags.”
Listen to music from Andra Day, and more artists from this issue, in the Spotify playlist below:
This story originally appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of Billboard.