Chic and cosmopolitan in the surreal “The Only One,” cutting and full of a brooding emotionality in “Miscommunication,” it’s impossible to ignore the warm vocal of Ilyah no matter which of his songs is playing. In the last couple of years, this pop singer/songwriter has been steadily gaining steam in the international underground on the strength of his vocal prowess, and having been introduced to his music a little while ago, I can understand why he’s getting another wave of buzz this spring. On the heels of his latest release, the single/video combo “Habibi,” Ilyah has been attracting some renewed interest from the indie press, and based on the growth he’s displayed over the course of the last few years, he’s more than worthy of the hype for sure.
While Ilyah’s music videos have always been sparkling with polish, his most recent visual dispatch in “Habibi” is perhaps his slickest piece of material to see widespread release thus far. Where “Girls Like You” and “Miscommunication” sampled from the same indulgent influences that this release does, there’s more of an attention to the relationship between shots and songcraft here than I was initially expecting to find. He’s got so much he’s trying to get off of his chest via the harmonies in the master mix, but beside them, we’ve got a smorgasbord of stimulating frames that keep our attention glued to the screen as much as it is the speakers. It’s very well-rounded material, and a great look for its creator.
I absolutely love the use of melodic contrast in the tracks “The Only One,” “Girls Like You” and this latest cut “Habibi.” Borrowing some elements from avant-gardism but avoiding the pitfalls that come with sounding overly experimental, Ilyah strike an interesting balance between alternative aesthetics and pop simplicity (which is no easy feat for any artist to tackle). He’s got quite the gift for amalgamating texture and tonality together, and if there were any critics not lauding his skillset in this department prior to now, I think they will be in the next year. 2020 is already off to a tremendous start for this player, and with a little more airplay on the college radio format through the summer, he’ll be ready to enter the autumn season as one of the underground’s premier voices.
You don’t have to be a pop fanatic to dig the direction that Ilyah is taking his music in at the moment, but for those of us who carefully follow the genre’s every movement, this is definitely an artist that you need to be paying special attention to moving forward. Ilyah doesn’t have a particularly theatrical presence in his studio recordings – he’s raw, real and, frankly, never hesitant about putting his emotions out there through both his melodic attack and the words it’s designed to convey unto us. He’s come a long way in an incredibly short amount of time, and if he keeps his nose to the grindstone through 2020, he’ll see even more success in this decade than he did the latter half of the last.