The Canadian artist finds new meaning in dance floor pop and R&B on this stellar album.
In her output so far, Rochelle Jordan's music has established roots in soulful R&B and hip-hop. The tone of her voice is reminiscent of Solange in its more honeyed notes, and Janet Jackson in the breathier moments. After a six-year hiatus that Jordan has described as a period of contemplation and introspection, her new album Play With The Changes pivots to the club, running with those UK flavours of her formative years with the help of longtime production partner KLSH, as well as Machinedrum, Jimmy Edgar, Alix Perez and Sepalcure.
KLSH and Machinedrum share production credits on six of the 12 tracks on the record, a partnership with a foundation of blushing pads and crisp UK garage-leaning percussion that wouldn’t be out of place on a Settle-era Disclosure track. The duo take a different approach on "Broken Steel," which features a guest verse from rapper Farrah Fawx. Over a shuddering grime instrumental, Jordan sings about being judged and taken for granted as a Black woman: "Better shut my mouth / if I say my feelings then they'll say that I'm too loud." "Lay," meanwhile, speaks of heightened anxiety as a result of perpetual police brutality, and wanting to watch the one she loves as they sleep to keep them safe. The production is beatless and atmospheric, the textures drifting as Jordan sings about feeling overprotective in a time of loss.
On the other hand, Play With The Changes' lead single "Got Em" is a silky cut that Jordan wrote in 2017 as a song of affirmation and growth, "reaching deep down in your soul," she sings, "making space to watch it all unfold." Jimmy Edgar delivers hazy trap production on the defiant "Count It," which could be the 2021 edition of "Bills, Bills, Bills," while "Already" focuses on the value of self-worth as Jordan closes the door on a past relationship. The production fits the lyrics to the tee—on opener "Love U Good," Alix Perez and Machinedrum provide skittering drum & bass and aquatic pads that gently elevate Jordan's lyrics about empathy.
Rochelle Jordan shows major growth as both a songwriter and a vocalist. She goes from soaring top notes to feisty lines delivered rapid-fire, and builds intricate harmonies with layers of her own voice. Occasionally, her voice takes on the quality of synth, filling the space between the main vocal line and the instrumentals with weightless, wordless breaths. You can hear this on album highlight "Situation," the only track produced by Sepalcure. It's yet another example of Jordan's connection with the timbres and textures of dance music, an affinity she outlines in "Dancing Elephants," where Jordan sings, "let's keep dancing / always dancing." In a time when the whole world is raring to dance again, Rochelle Jordan is staking her own claim to the dance floor without losing sight of her intimate, sometimes vulnerable songwriting.