Updated: Jan 18
Favorite Track: Time Alone With You (feat. Daniel Caesar)
Least Favorite Track: Light It Up On Me
If there is one artist that all musicians across all genres and styles admire, it is the musically gifted, 4x Grammy-Award winning, multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier. The early 2010’s saw the release of his jaw-dropping Youtube videos, depicting him performing split-screen harmonic voice and instrumental arrangements of songs like Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?” and “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing.” The superstar quickly blew up after attracting praise from notable figures like Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones, exposing his genius to the world and soon after launching his unprecedented large-scale project Djesse. This project entails fifty songs across four albums, with each one representing a different musical universe of sounds and styles. He also includes around thirty collaborators, ranging from legendary artists like Take 6 and Steve Vai all the way to modern artists like Tori Kelly and Lianne La Havas. Collier’s first release in the Djesse series, Djesse Vol. 1, features the Metropole Orkest under the direction of Jules Buckley, and is a fusion of classical music and contemporary R&B that reimagines such standards like Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (feat. Take 6)” and The Police’s “ Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” Djesse Vol. 2 combines the intimate genres of acoustic folk music and R&B. The highlight is his enormous voice track arrangement of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” which breaks the harmonic constraints of traditional keys and harmonies by going to D half-sharp major. After releasing 5 singles, he blessed our diseased world with Djesse Vol. 3, an eccentric and mystical space of R&B, EDM, pop, and funk tracks that make up arguably his best universe yet.
As proven on previous Djesse universes, Jacob Collier is a master at creating songs that perfectly highlight a featured artists’ musical strengths. For example, his rendition of the famous Beatles song “Here Comes The Sun” off of Djesse Vol. 2 required a collaborator whose voice could match the delicate guitar and acoustic bass but also provide extra ideas to match Collier’s classic musical expressions, such as the triplet-section in the middle of the track and the multi-layered harmony section on the outro. Choosing the English singer/songwriter dodie was an excellent addition, as her light, melodious voice blends perfectly with the lively instrumental section and Collier’s powerful, perfect-pitch voice. As expected, Djesse Vol. 3 has excellent examples of matching the right artist with an appropriate and supportive track. “Time Alone With You” quickly grew to being one of his most popular songs, which is not surprising considering he matched this funky, sensational R&B track with the elegant, sensual voice of Canadian-singer Daniel Caesar. Seeing these two on a track together superseded all my expectations before I even listened, and sure enough, my assumption was proven correct. This subtle and wonky groove, shaped with a funky bass-line and a tight hi-hat/snare beat, along with its microtonal tonality makes it feel familiar yet unique and intriguing. Djesse Vol. 3 has other clear examples of matching collaborators with complementing tracks, including Kiana Ledé’s sweet and sexy voice on “In Too Deep” and Kimbra’s playful and fierce singing on “In My Bones.”
I also believe that Djesse Vol. 3 was meant to capture Jacob Collier’s disconnected, late-night musical thoughts, a time where his mastery expands as he adds new layers of instruments and harmony. The genres of R&B, EDM, and funk are musical expressions that capture those sensations, exploring all the themes that arise out of the strange, shadowy void that quarantined nights brought him. The second track “Count The People,” featuring Canadian-singer songwriter Jessie Reyez and the auto-tune king T-Pain, samples “Overture” from Djesse Vol. 1 and introduces the entire album with some fiery, rap flow from Collier and some hardcore instrumental work on synths, electric guitar, drum programming, celestas, and even the banjo. The line “Live a life of quarantine, never see Jack (Eso)” represents his sadness for postponing his 2020 Spring Djesse tour; accordingly, this song portrays the late quarantine nights, where ideas flowed and the constructs of time were nonexistent. However, this late-night yearning also evolves into a desire for love. Track eleven “He Won’t Hold You (feat. Rapsody)” is made up of a repetitive verse (“He won’t hold you like, Like I do”) coupled with a heavy backbeat, sparkling harps, and magical-sounding piano chords. Rapsody's spoken-word verse explores the feelings of loneliness, as listeners realize how much they took that special person in their life for granted. Moreover, the late-night love theme throughout Djesse Vol. 3 has more subcategories than just lust. The song “Sleeping On My Dreams” sees Collier singing about a relationship that has run its course and how it has caused him to become distracted from being the best that he can be. The pre-chorus line “My bed is all my pleasure/Now I’ll fall asleep forever now” shows his happiness with not having to compromise anything anymore, and now he can return to chasing his dreams.
Djesse Vol. 3 was an acceptable next step in the Djesse journey, differing from his classic and complicated instrumental and voice arrangements on previous projects like In My Room, which was judged for being “too busy.”The hooks in Djesse Vol. 3 are easier for listeners to grasp; therefore, making it more popular and well-liked. Nevertheless, this musical universe created some of the most amazingly mixed, layered, and produced tracks I’ve ever heard, showing that he hasn’t lost the complexity to his work that first attracted attention from music enthusiasts. The combination of varying genres and stylistic choices, amazing harmonic vocal moments, and the overall exploration of danceable grooves creates a bewildering and enchanting soundscape. Jacob Collier does not try to temper the album with any extra, unnecessary musical additions to appease anyone. The excitement to create music does not stem from ego or impressionistic reason; rather, he loves music and all it offers to the world, wanting to showcase his musical universes and what they mean to him.