Review Summary: We're on different lanes, chasing different things.
Yuna’s career arc has been characterized by sudden, exponential growth. The Malaysian was still a relative unknown on MySpace (remember that one?) as recently as 2011, but after being picked up by New York indie-pop label Fader she moved stateside where she quickly benefitted from bigger markets and more appreciative audiences. By the time her sophomore record Nocturnal
appeared in late 2013, she had already shared the Lollapalooza stage with Florence + the Machine, Childish Gambino, and The Jezabels and collaborated with the likes of Mike Einziger and Pharrell Williams. Chapters
, Yuna's third full-length, sees the Malaysian singer-songwriter completing her transformation from indie-folk troubadour to urban RnB auteur. Nocturnal
had already started to gravitate towards the realm of alt-soul, with songs like “Falling” and “Mountains” trading in understated and mellow dynamics that were more about mood than anything else. But while Chapters
is clearly engineered to feel more sophisticated than those Nocturnal
cuts, the results are decidedly less stimulating. The moody, monochromatic template that songs like “Mannequin”, “Lanes”, and “Unrequited Love” employ is lovely enough, but they often end up feeling like rough sketches in search of a meatier song. It has to be said that Chapters
’ spacious production does wonders for Yuna’s tender soprano, and when the two elements manage to combine over an honest-to-goodness number, such as in the case of "All I Do" and “Too Close”, the result is good enough to make heartbreak contemporaries Adele and Jessie Ware blush. Those who have kept a keen eye on Yuna's career development will also note that there are three big name collaborations on the album: the one with Jhené Aiko (“Used to Love You”) is the best of the bunch, with Usher’s “Crush” a close second. Unfortunately “Places to Go,” Yuna’s collaboration with DJ Premier, leaves nothing but a bitter aftertaste with its decidedly dated frat-boy posturing. Yuna has never turned in a better studio performance than on Chapters
, but the bulk of the material she's working with, unfortunately, is on a lower level.