By Rashad D. Grove
In today’s R&B landscape, Lucky Daye has emerged as a torchbearer of the genre’s rich history while simultaneously curating music that defies labels. Since his debut Painted was released in 2019, the multiple Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter has been redefining modern R&B through, as he says, “a futuristic sci-fi world shaped by the inspiration of Afrofuturism.” In other words, with his evocative songwriting and penchant for creating mesmerizing melodies, Daye is intent on taking his listeners back to the future. This unique motif is what he believes makes him stand out amongst his peers.
“I think I bring individuality to the music industry. I'm not trying to fall into a mode of what everyone thinks an R&B artist should be,” Daye said to MTV News over the phone in March. “I just put my foot down and be like, y’all can have the labels. I’ma just be me, and that’s what I bring to the table. I want people to know that I care about more them hearing my songs. It’s about more than that.”
With his second album, CandyDrip, released on March 10, the New Orleans native, who previously penned songs for Keith Sweat, Ne-Yo, Boyz II Men, Keke Palmer, Ella Mai, and Mary J. Blige, further cements his place in the contemporary music scene as an artist to be reckoned with.
Conceptually, CandyDrip was conceived out of a series of jam sessions over the course of a few days in Los Angeles. According to Daye, during the recording, he was in a creative zone where he collaborated with some of the most accomplished and innovative musicians on the scene, including guitarist Pierre-Luc Rioux, violinist Peter Lee Johnson, trombonist Chris Johnson, trumpeter Brandyn Phillips, and multi-instrumentalist Yonatan "xSDTRK" Ayal, just to name a few. In creating the LP, Daye immersed himself in the process by expressing all of his pent-up energy and channeling his creative prowess. That power is immediately apparent on the silky smooth “Guess,” and reflective “Compassion.” The undeniable synergy of these sessions eventually evolved into the nexus for CandyDrip, which Daye believes is his greatest artistic statement to date.
“We rented out EastWest Studios and called every musician we knew,” he recalled, shouting out the recording home of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, among other albums. “Those ideas were so special that we took those skeletons and built on them throughout the pandemic. Once we got near the end of everything and were close to the release of the album, we started mixing a lot of the songs. Actually, you can divide the album into two different halves.”
The duality is reflected in its title as well. “It’s called CandyDrip because it's triggering your senses, your taste buds of music. Some stuff may make you cringe, and some will make you say, wow, that was an amazing dish.”
The first two singles from the album — “NWA” featuring Lil Durk, and “Over” — are snapshots of those recording sessions, and both tracks garnered critical acclaim upon their release. Each one captures another dimension of Daye and his willingness to push the boundaries of his creativity. On “NWA,” Daye effortlessly floats over a mid-tempo bounce track where he alludes to a run-in with the police, while on “Over,” which samples Musiq Soulchild’s “Halfcrazy,” he’s trapped in a toxic relationship where there seems to be no escape. Both songs reveal dimensions of Daye’s persona and his immense versatility as a singer-songwriter.
Heavily influenced by the vocal stylings of Usher and the sonic mastery of Missy “Misdemeanor”’ Elliott and Timbaland, Daye also spoke about how the sound of the Crescent City has left an indelible mark on his musicality and is a foundational imprint of the album.
“The influence of New Orleans has had a major impact on my music. There are Spanish, French, Haitian, and American influences, so it's a gumbo pot of sounds,” he said. “You go out there in the streets and it still looks like Paris, so it gives you that freedom to experiment when it comes to music. I think coming from that place made me limitless as an artist and it left me believing that I could do anything. It gave me a lot of confidence with my music.”
After his critically acclaimed EP Table For Two was released last year, it garnered two Grammy nominations for Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best Progressive R&B Album, bringing Daye’s total career nominations so far to six. Since then, though, he says he’s grown immeasurably as an artist and as a person. He expressed his internal struggle of navigating through the pressure of creating his highly anticipated sophomore album and dealing with the expectations from his fans. While his first official project, 2019’s Painted, was created for himself, on this album, he’s aiming to showcase his metamorphosis.
“I think I evolved a lot since the first album, especially because I worked with a lot of different artists. I think I learned how to let people live and to let things go and to just bring good vibes to my music,” he said. “Also, I realized that I’m not making music just for myself anymore. With the first album, I didn’t get any outside opinions like I did for this album. I still have anxiety about it because I don’t want to let the people down.”
One commonality that runs through all of Daye’s work is the organic chemistry and partnership that he’s forged with his long-time collaborator, Grammy winner Dernst “D’Mile” Emile, who produced all of Daye’s debut album and the majority of CandyDrip, including the stunning “Cherry Forest” and the seductive, climatic closing track “Ego.”
“My relationship with D’Mile goes beyond music. Music was what we had in common, although we almost gave up. We were on our way back home, but now he's like the go-to producer of R&B. When people think of him, they think of me. I see him as my family, not only in music but in life.”
Not only has he dropped a new album, but Daye is also headlining his own national tour in support of the project. Like many other artists, this is his first time being back on the road for live performances since the COVID-19 pandemic halted most concerts. He says he’s looking forward to experiencing the energy of the crowd that he’s missed so much.
“I can’t wait to get back on the road. It’s been over two years,” he said with excitement. “I can’t wait to see all my fans and supporters.”
While it’s steeped in contemporary R&B, CandyDrip is an amalgamation of all of the musical forces that have shaped Lucky Daye. Traces of hip-hop, soul, blues, and gospel are all peppered throughout the project. It’s an invitation to a journey to explore an array of emotions, the art of sensuality, and features some of Daye’s best vocal performances. CandyDrip is a reminder of the artistic progression of Lucky Daye and how his music is just the flavor that we need.