The album, “Stand Up” sits waiting like cream inside an éclair. Most tracks are like immaculate shells that are waiting to expose themselves with the magnetism of the right artistic match. The same is true of the best songs on the album, which give North Carolina artist, Somaya, room for interpretation and allow her to balance intimacy, and soaring melodies. Somaya’s voice spans three and a half octaves, and she glides up and down her register with ease, sounding wispy and ethereal with her high notes and sensual and resonant in her low. A Somaya vocal is easily recognizable, and the songs on “Stand Up” have sonic and lyric lines that get into your head immediately. While that amount of catchiness and familiarity might prompt a listener to download a song immediately, the album never suffers from predictability.
If you want to host a party where the dancing doesn’t stop and you can have one album on, then “Stand Up” would serve you well. But if you like to listen to an entire album as a representation of an artist’s emotional and musical psyche, then you’re probably going to be love “Stand Up” more. Despite the trendy dance beats and pop sounds, “Stand Up” nearly always sounds like a Somaya album because of her distinctive fluttering vocals and sometimes strikingly personal and powerful lyrics. There’s a duality within Somaya at play here.
There’s the stadium-sized choruses and electronic pop sensibility – the side of her that appears to take soaring upbeat anthems in her stride – as on the title track, “Stand Up”, “Open Up” and “Straight Girl”. Then there’s her darker side; a far cry from the pop glitz it counterbalances, these heavier, temperamental moments provide a perfect milieu for Somaya’s intimacy and empowerment to manifest, whilst making for the more memorable tracks on offer.
Just turn towards standout and introspective songs such as “Dear Future Love”, “Take Me Away” and “As Much As I Love”. The raw emotion these tracks harbor, coupled with their almost-mercurial production make for pop music with soulful bite. When this dichotomy works, it works brilliantly and the record shines.
However, it’s Somaya’s vocal range and lyricism which make the stand out moments come off as nothing short of pop perfection. “Go With The Beat” for instance, is a prime example of her ability to combine instantly relatable emotions with understated yet rousing production. As such, it retains a surprising amount of individuality.
The main difference between “Stand Up” and previous electro-pop offerings this past year, is that there is there is no breathing room. From the moment the opening track hits its stride, the audience is locked in for a roller coaster ride of varying tempos. While most artists would struggle to keep up with this constantly switching pace, Somaya does so with the expertise of a pro.
She has enough on this album that there is something for everyone, and many of the tracks hit the bullseye, allowing Somaya to fully submerge herself in glowing pop goodness. Without forgetting though that her lyrical themes are about empowerment and the ability to stand up to societies cruelties, many of which are currently in the news headlines.
MORE ABOUT SOMAYA: Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Somaya was drawn to music from a young age. She began learning the piano when she was 4 years old and picked up singing while learning the guitar when she was 11. However, when she began experiencing depression in her early teenage years, she turned to songwriting and music as a source of healing. Somaya then decided to pursue music as a recording artist, hoping to help others heal through music as well. She started posting her music on YouTube, performing at small venues, and writing endless songs which led to the release of her debut album.