by Dom Jones
I discovered Gwen Bunn’s music on YouTube. I’m that adventurous listener who clicks videos in the sidebar, and so her first full project, The Verdict, in 2009 became my obsession for a while. The admiration grew even more when I discovered that she is also a PRODUCER! I always have extra love for women who produce their own music (or for others) because although all of the music industry is male dominated, that particular corner of it is extra male dominated, and women like Missy Elliott or Lauryn Hill who are amazing artists, but also amazing producers, haven’t gotten their just due in the latter regard.
Gwen Bunn is also an alumna of Berklee, her sound remaining consistent on her latest full release, Safe Travels, which took almost ten years for her fans to see manifest. If you’re a true fan of her music, you’ve followed her work with other producers (a jazzy tune with musician Darryl Reeves, a hard-driving tune with Eric Lau) or her work as a producer (a hip-hop banger for Schoolboy Q). When she dropped her latest single, “Started,” the sound of it had me worried that she would start to acquiesce to the sound we’re hearing in mainstream, but Safe Travels delivers the expected Gwen Bunn sound and is divergent enough from the homogenous sound of mainstream R&B to please the listener, greatly.
If you’ve heard Gwen’s first single for Safe Travels, called “Yours,” then you have a great indication of how the entire project will vibe. Drum patterns that are simple, but have such bounce that you can’t help but nod your head, the intricacy of the instrumentation and the way it intertwines with the lead vocal and harmonies, all create a soundscape that is unique to the artist. Some standouts on this project to me are “All Your Secrets,” whose bass line has a crazy feel from jump. It talks about wanting your significant other to share their secrets with you to reach the next level of intimacy. This song shows that you can create an amazing groove without being super extra with all the parts/arrangements/breakdown (Berklee students take note!). This song is produced by the most named producer on the album (other than Gwen), Mxxwll.
“By The Window,” produced by Gwen herself, has a Sade kind of feel (the drum pattern puts you in the mind of “Sweetest Taboo,” though less hard hitting), with its ethereal vocals, rhodes, and flutes. This song talks about the sleeplessness and frustration with a relationship, wanting to be accepted with everything that may come with that acceptance (flaws and all), but at the same time wanting the other person to change. Ultimately, there’s a question of whether to stay in a relationship that may not be worth it. The way Bunn approaches songwriting does seem in line with modern R&B, shirking the traditional forms of writing for a more free-wheeling pattern. For the listener, sometimes that’s enjoyable, and sometimes you may wish for more structure.
The eight song album ultimately does the same thing that The Verdict did… leaves the listener wanting more! Melody Dungeon, which we can now only assume is Gwen Bunn’s opus, is said to still be in the process of creation, and so we’re given these “in-between” courses of music before we get to the main course. Either way I’m sure listeners are just happy to have a new, yet familiar taste on their palette.
STREAM AND PURCHASE SAFE TRAVELS BY CLICKING HERE
& TELL US YOUR FAVORITE SONGS IN THE COMMENTS!