For the past five years, Alina Baraz’s voice has wisped through R&B productions like a light breeze: comfortable, soothing and discreet to the point of invisibility. Baraz’s softness often acts as a double-edged sword—she’s not on center stage but in the scenery, where perhaps she is best able to entertain. Music journos throw the term “ethereal” around way too much, but in this case it captures the vaporous essence that is her career. Even the cover art to her debut LP, It Was Divine, similarly exists in a haze, the phantom title barely visible against the cloudy filter.

Its contents, too, struggle with standing out; most tracks fit perfectly into the background, but because of this, they never quite leave an impact. The moments that strike the listener seem to rise from the canvas, not so much intrusive as they are insistent. The distinct bass in “Frank,” the piano rumbling beneath “Night and Morning”, the kickdrum on “The Beginning”—each edges its way to the forefront. These moments break the album’s monotony for the listener, while the majority of it tends to swaddle you with pleasant but indistinct synths. One-off single from early this year, “Trust,” would have injected a bit more oomph, or at least some personality.

Though warm, It Was Divine rarely feels all that revealing about the woman behind the haze. Baraz gets away with this to some extent; she sings about sensuality, relaxation and getting high, all three concepts made easier when presented in a smooth channel. “Good people, good nights…/ Good music, great sex” she croons, conjuring your wildest dreams with a voice made for sensual healing.

Yet it all says little about Baraz the artist. “Frank,” titled after the adjective and not a person, fails to match the candor of its name. “Underneath the stars/ Love me in the dark” is forthright without noticeable worry or conceit behind it, reducing the risk that would elevate the tension. Furthermore, Baraz says the song refers to herself; however, one of the lyrics reads “I look to you and see all the parts of me.” Perhaps she’s peering into a mirror or inward and viewing her person for the first time, but it seems more likely she’s addressing the listener and/or her object of affection.

Said significant other is the most common subject of It Was Divine. As is the case with many an album, the topics center around one person. Part of this once again goes back to Baraz’s inviting voice—its softness gives each song the feel of an intimately private conversation. The problem comes from the lyrics, which play things far too safe or seem more eager to please than to reveal. “My favorite view/ Is me covered in you,” sang on track 2, “Morocco,” subconsciously gets to the root of the problem early on: these songs rely too heavily on the other person and not on Baraz.

It’s disappointing for an artist who seems perfectly set for the lane she’s chosen. Instead of focusing on her ability, personality or really anything to set herself apart, It Was Divine directs those energies elsewhere. “I’m not asking for too much/ I’m asking the wrong motherfucker.” Hopefully, her next project considers looking somewhere else for answers.

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