Comprised of a darkly melodic strain of instrumental fabric and an organic lead vocal left untainted by the commerciality of a synth-crazy generation in pop music, you could perhaps call Cleo Alexandra’s all-new single “Taken By Desire” a product of the minimalism-inspired times it was born into, but at the same time, I would be hesitant to give such a complicated piece of material such a simple branding right out of the gate.
If we break down the finer points in “Taken By Desire,” such as the construction of its hook, the depth of the tread between the bassline and the drums, and most importantly, the tonal expressiveness of the vocal as it relates to the substance of its lyrics, there’s as much appeal in this song to pop fans as there is alternative, R&B, and club music aficionados – several groups that hardly ever agree on anything anymore, let alone which records to pick up this autumn. Cleo Alexandra might not be a household name at the moment, but in this single, she shows us that she has the right stuff to make some big waves in an American underground that could use more spunky young players like her.
This bassline is a beast considering how minuscule some of the other melodic components around it seem to be (especially in the lead-up to the chorus), and I would say that despite its barebones construction, “Taken By Desire” actually does allow for some triumphs of tonality that aren’t limited by the environment in which they’ve been presented to us at all.
On the contrary, there’s something about the setting here that Cleo Alexandra seems absurdly comforted by, and even though this is her first time recording something to bear her moniker on the cover, you would never know it simply by going off of her attitude in the performance she gives in this song. I love the venom that comes off of her delivery, and even if the execution feels a little too sharp for the backdrop in spots, it’s a measurement of her skillset that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss at any rate.
Cleo Alexandra is still finding her way out of a revitalized American underground and into the high-caliber spotlight so many of her peers have devoted their lives to occupying, but the ambitiousness of this first single is telling of just what listeners need to expect when she hits the recording studio again in the future.
This is a songwriter who doesn’t cut corners to embrace pop cosmetics but also isn’t getting so lost in the cult of post-anything individuality that she loses focus of how to be a good composer who can appeal to the masses but still stay relatable, and these days, that’s asking a lot out of any player. Hers is a story that I can’t wait to see unfold more than it already has with the release of “Taken By Desire,” and once you check out this song for yourself, I think you’re going to understand my enthusiasm.