DRAM has by no means been afraid to be foolish. Whether or not he’s belting about getting cash, discovering love, or smoking debilitating quantities of weed, he’s all the time performing for a budget seats, his highly effective vocal vary lampshaded with a goofy exuberance. His guilelessness has mutated barely throughout his first two albums. His debut full-length, 2016’s Huge Child D.R.A.M., had greater than its fair proportion of crowd-pleasers, however smoky, intimate outliers like “WiFi” and “Monticello Ave” proved he didn’t all the time really feel the necessity to swing for crossover hits. By 2021’s Shelley FKA DRAM, the Virginia crooner and someday rapper had gone by a reputation change and absolutely dedicated himself to grownup modern R&B and soul. It was essentially the most mature he’d ever sounded on report, however not mature sufficient to forgo a light-weight dusting of shenanigans, whether or not cheeky interludes or the occasional groaner (“Let me contact your soul earlier than I contact your pores and skin”). On What Had Occurred Was…, DRAM is again together with his outdated title and his new sensibilities, a re-re-introduction that solidifies his love for all issues easy and sappy.
As a singer, DRAM flows between a velvety tenor and a piercing falsetto that remembers Ronald Isley if he mainlined nothing however trap-soul playlists. His vocals simmer and rise on the hooks for “Journey or Die” and “Let Me See Your Telephone,” the warble of his higher register promoting reassuring coos to 1 lover and threats of invading one other’s privateness with equal charisma. Vibrato has all the time been a secret weapon in the very best DRAM songs, however his utility is extra nuanced now, letting it seep into the cracks of the music as an alternative of drilling it by the muse—the purring all through tracks like “Finest That I Bought” and “Reflections” is easy and welcoming. He’s a extra seasoned vocalist than earlier than who’s wanting to flesh out core parts of his approach. The stacked vocal harmonies on “3’s Firm” and “Can’t Maintain You Down” have the feel of Voodoo-era D’Angelo, and his voice usually has a richer, extra assured tone.
What Had Occurred Was… goals to refine the system DRAM first established on Shelley FKA DRAM. Every music is a unfastened narrative about totally different phases and types of love: one-night stands and brushes with the One; break-ups and makeups; affairs behind closed doorways and JumboTron-worthy proclamations. He’s been by all of it, and he approaches every state of affairs with playboy confidence and loverboy earnestness. “3’s Firm” is a funk ballad in whic DRAM succumbs to his associate’s request for a threesome; it performs out with simply sufficient melodrama to not learn like a cleaning soap opera (“Despite the fact that I’d reasonably it’s you and me/However I don’t actually thoughts as a result of it’s not new to me/It’s simply that it jogs my memory who I was”). The laidback foolish attraction manifests in interludes dotted with Tremendous Saiyan sound results and Spongebob jokes, and temporary lapses into rapping (“Soul to Take,” “Huge Child DRAM”). For all his progress, DRAM continues to be a child at coronary heart.