It’s always been important for an artist to make a strong impression with a debut. After all, the music business isn’t known for giving second chances. But in a world where infinite numbers of new tunes are just a click away, the stakes are higher: It’s important to make a statement with your very first song.
R&B singer Preston Harris, whose debut EP, Love Crazy, demonstrates that he already has a cohesive, fully-formed aesthetic. Today Billboard is exclusively premiering Love Crazy. Listen below.
Harris starts his EP with the bold “Iloveyou.” For more than a minute, the singer serves as his own a cappella chorus, arranging vocals like a shrewd military tactician: percussive bursts of notes shoot down the middle while subtler, stickier streams sneak in around the sides. The song is hard-headed — in the 21st century, few artists expend the energy to put together these sorts of vocal formations. But it lands softly. If you squint, there are touches of both DJ Mustard and doo-wop in the snapped beat, as well as the important idea that those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“I want to recreate the same feeling that Stevie Wonder, Prince and Marvin Gaye brought to R&B music,” Harris tells Billboard. But importantly, this isn’t just an homage to the past. Much of the EP is produced by Hit Boy (and appears on his HS87 imprint), whose credits include a handful of the most vital songs of the 2010s: among them, Kanye West and Jay Z‘s “N—as in Paris,” Kendrick Lamar‘s “Back Seat Freestyle,” Beyonce‘s “XO,” and Drake‘s “Trophies.” These are huge, triumphant tracks full of the pulsing energy of the present.
Love Crazy is full of tricky, appealing details. “Hummingbird” contains lovely piano and fluttering vocals; these contend with a bassline that’s dirty and rugged, as if it’s coming through the wall from your neighbor’s apartment. “Trace” pairs Harris with an unusual, squawking beat.
“I want to hear love songs again on mixtapes and the radio,” Harris says. “Love isn’t corny. It can still be fresh and dope.” Check out Love Crazy, and keep your ears open for more music from Harris soon.