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Aptly titled MUSE(ic), Bel-Ami’s debut album through his thoughtful messages (in some places biblical allusions) places him as the muse within the MUSE(ic) alongside the project’s spiritual message. The album opens with a poignant spoken-word piece with overlapping thoughts bringing forth the message of being a city on a hill that cannot be hidden and letting one’s life so shine.
Sonically, Bel-Ami stays true to the core elements of the neo-soul sounds that became popular in the 1990s and 2000s by the likes of talents like Floetry, Jill Scott, and Erykah Badu. Bel-Ami fuses those sounds with modern gospel riffs and jazz standards sounds. The clear presence of ‘real’ sounding instruments lends itself to both the authenticity of the sound and the message of the project.
Bel-Ami’s vocals, much like salt that never loses its saltiness, also shines throughout the multi-faceted production of the project. A smooth tenor, Bel-Ami fixes his sound in the sweet spot of his falsetto, which is admittedly stronger, richer, falsetto than most of his peers. There is no struggle to hit or sustain notes as he glides through the album’s sounds and messages of the 9 tracks.
Importantly, the collective message of the album’s songs does not come off as ‘preachy’ although the message is a spiritual and somewhat instructional one. Perhaps, that is due to a combination of Bel-Ami’s clever songwriting and smooth vocal style. The combination allows the messages to be more than palatable but perhaps welcomed. For those listeners who value the message as much as they do the musicality, this album is a welcomed treat. This is particularly true considering that ‘message music’ can often be lacking in musicality and artistry. For the Houston, neo-soul musician Bel-Ami, the debut album MUSE(ic) is the opposite and is sure to remain a staple in any playlist its featured in.
Knowing how to read music notation is like having a secret key that unlocks one…