by Dom Jones
We’ve all seen Xenia around campus singing. She’s been spotted with some of our favorites: singing with Tyesha Simpson or Marianna Secca or as a background vocalist for Niya Norwood or Mayah Dyson, but as time has gone on, the curiosity has grown around when she would take center stage for more than a few minutes. Last semester, Xenia had her first solo show in one of the large classrooms in 921, and managed to set the class up to look like a cozy venue, replete with camera men and a stripped down band. At this show, she sung some covers with friends (you may have seen our clips on our Instagram page – click here to see her singing with then-freshman Charles Gaines). To me, this is what Xenia has become notorious for: duets. So, when she announced that she’d be releasing her first single, I waited for the name of who it would be featuring.
She dropped the cover, and it simply had her name and the title of the song. I still didn’t believe that there wouldn’t be a feature on the song, but assumed that she was just centering herself aesthetically, so that the focus wouldn’t be split between herself and whoever this elusive feature had to be. When Berklee Groove received an early copy of the single for review, my curiosity hit maximum capacity: I would finally hear who the other voice was going to be on this single. And as I pressed play, listening to minutes one, two, and finally three, I was pleasantly surprised to hear no other voices on the record except for Xenia. A debut single should be about the primary artist. In that regard, “Fallin’ Apart” is a rousing success. It centers Xenia as the sole vocalist and even the background vocals are fairly laid back to position the lead in the middle of the mix.
The production has a meandering sound, with a very low bpm and rolling drums reminiscent of trap – or as a Bay Area artist coined in my hometown “Trap&B.” In this way, there is prosody between the lyric and the production. Prosody: that thing that songwriting teachers beat us over the head with. It is accomplished in this song in spades because just as the production meanders, so does the relationship being narrated through song. As the song starts, we’re immediately made aware of “a reality that you and me will never be…” We never really know if they separate since the lyric is a conflicted one: “Now I’m falling/I’m falling apart/I’m falling ’cause you’ve capture my heart.” This is the narrative of that friend who keeps going back to that dude who she knows it won’t work with and you just have to keep listening to her vacillate between being unrealistically happy about stolen moments or unbearably miserable about feeling broken again. It has the scent of SZA, but without the ratchetry and basic lyricism, and for that – I like it. There is composition, albeit simple. Simplicity is not basic-ness, basic-ness could never hope to ascend to the discipline simplicity requires, and in this way, Xenia sets herself apart from other singers in this lane of R&B/Soul. Vocally, Xenia feels like a descendant of Amel Larrieux or even a more contemporary and ethereal Tweet.
“Fallin’ Apart” is a successful introduction of Xenia to waiting listeners, and it is my hope that we hear a progression of complexity with her forthcoming songs to compliment this debut.