In an age where a single song uploaded to SoundCloud can make you an instant star, Lion Babe knows a thing or two about blowing up in what seems like the blink of an eye off the strength of the internet.
But while their campaign from virtual unknowns to inking a deal with Interscope and snagging features with VOGUE, W, and Interview may seem spry to some, the New York City-based duo consisting of singer-songwriter Jillian Hervey and multi-instrumentalist Lucas Goodman, better known as Astro Raw, have been anything but that. Since 2011, the two who bonded over their love of music have been building the foundation of their versatile sound rooted in neo soul IRL and the pay-off has arrived.
After putting a face to their debut self-titled EP in 2014, the duo have worked their niche underground following to one of epic global proportions. Jet setting across the world to rock out on festival stages with the likes of Disclosure and collaborate with Pharrell and Chidlish Gambino, Lion Babe is now well acquainted with the mainstream world, and as the title of their debut studio album, BEGIN makes known, the initial four-track project we heard was just the beginning of their unique presence in the musical landscape.
“You should just save your breath, homie/And shut up/And I should be taking so much less from you/I finally think I’ve grown up,” Hervey demands on the album kicker, “Whole.” A mechanical ode to the habitual push and shove routine of a choosy lover, Hervey’s crippling crooning warms the rugged tone of the powerful statement-making opener. As the LP progresses, we’re greeted with LION BABE EP cuts “Treat Me Like Fire,” “Wonder Woman,” “Jump Hi,” and “Jungle Lady,” as a nostalgic token of appreciation to their claim to fame.
Four tracks in, the album drifts into heavy dance, alt pop territory. “Impossible” is the equivalent to Clipse’s “Grindin” where the forceful schoolyard beat hypnotizes you to the point of rocking out in teen spirit-like rebellion. “Where Do We Go” is a wide-open groove that fuses elements of disco and pop. The cheerful, bubblegum beat induces a boogie woogie of a groove session making for the perfect club banger. And the mid-tempo “On The Rocks” is beautiful balance of Hervey’s versatile vocal range and Goodman’s melting pot of production influences.
In terms of balance, BEGIN is equal parts experimental and carefree, uniting R&B, pop, and electronic sounds to create their own brand of nouveau neo-soul. However, there’s a distinct “it” factor to their more soulful sounds (similar to the EP gems) that simply just stick with you. Songs like “Stressed OUT!,” “Satisfy My Love,” Everyday Life” and “Little Dreamer” that boast of Hervey’s sensual and chilling pitch (that at times is eerily identical to Erykah Badu’s) are deliciously infectious.
Sometimes the songwriting feels a bit hit or miss, but the album gifts a serious gem with “Got Body,” a track brimming with generosity and self-love. “Just a woman with a** deluxe/A girl with more than a little/Big curves, big bones, honey skin tone/So clap, clap for this/I’m the one that you probably miss/I’m a lot to hold onto/It came to me that/When I was young, I couldn’t understand/What I was meant to be/Now I don’t shy away/I turned out okay/And we all don’t need one way to look good,” Hervey recites with sass.
At 26 and 27 years old respectively, Hervey and Goodman are still experiencing life’s ups and downs and cultivating their own sense of self. BEGIN is clearly just the start of Lion Babe’s story and is a genuine sonic interpretation of the growth and progression of their musical marriage.