“All is Vanity” rips and tears at deeply held emotions and frantically hides the wounds created.
“It’s all because of you I’ve been so cold, I’m so sick of being overlooked, I’ve had enough” wails Texas singer-producer Sleye on “Oxygen”. The song – a standout from the new album, “All is Vanity” – is an emo-pop rush, with Sleye commanding a guitar and a pumping drum loop to an over-emotional crescendo. The vocals are, despite the exaggerated nature of the genre, quite touching by the end of the final verse and sound surprisingly raw. Though Sleye’s perspective is only inward, their pain is more than sincere. “Oxygen” fades out to a synthetic glisten, not content to let unfiltered emotion become a lasting impression; as on much of the album, vanity takes hold and subtly masks the jagged edges of Sleye’s performance.
Sleye is, plainly, very talented, but that alone doesn’t make for an interesting album. As a vocalist they make a point to stress each vowel to the breaking point, which either leads to a soaring melody, a gutteral scrape, or in some cases (like the pensive “Crash & Burn”) both. Throughout the vocal work is commendable and honest, striking hard at universal but deep-set feelings. “Freezing” proves why this formula works by displaying the least ambitious singing on the album, leaving the listener missing the sincerity of opener “Selfish” or the dynamic rage of “Bad News”, in which Sleye perfectly synergises with the roar of the beat. It’s Sleye’s best production credit, of which there are five, an inviting grab bag of ideas and textures that clash pop-rock and dance music. “Cut Me Down” also demands its honours with a passionate acoustic riff that seems to sing just as much as Sleye does.
A loose handful of collaborations find their way onto “All is Vanity” to mixed effect. jason22k and rising star Curtains bring a trap flavour to “Tunnel Vision”, which features Lil Reign Drop and s k u l l y. These vocal guests both make servicable attempts at channelling the elasticity of Lil Uzi Vert but neither catch up to the host, who slurs through the bars “resolution low it’s on 480, can’t see the pixels you just lower on your framerate”. The song as a whole is an enjoyable shot of energy that does benefit from the immediacy of its guest verses, but there’s a bit of a power imbalance born from its multitude of contributors.
Sleye’s entry into the race of lockdown albums is solid in concept and remarkable in execution. Sleye presents truly affecting content in a glitzy wrapper, an envelope of vanity. On the same note, though, the artist cannot evade the spotlight and each moment of the album is spent at full drive; this presents a challenge to Sleye, to maintain this momentum and quality in a setting that doesn’t force it. For now, though, audiences have “All is Vanity”, which rises to its own emotional tests.
Listen to “All is Vanity” here.
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– Jamie (@youngjade1216)