In the Stars
Looming over NAO’s second album is Saturn’s return, an astrological phenomenon occurring in one’s late 20s, when a monumental shift occurs. On Saturn, the London-based singer-songwriter delves into the difficulty and ecstasy of reasserting one’s identity, pushing her sound into new realms. “Make It Out Alive,” a moody, beat-driven duet with SiR, appears to set the tone of the album, but don’t be fooled — this is just one side of the eclectic vision NAO brings forth. Dreamy production abounds on Saturn, heard on “If You Ever,” a rhythmic, earnest invitation to a lost love. Strings and harp inflections elevate the track, which relies on the genuine feeling and sweet tone of NAO’s voice. She uses interludes on the album, mirroring a technique used on her debut, For All We Know — in this instance, the concept of Saturn’s return is explained amidst radio feedback and otherworldly sounds.
“Drive and Disconnect” is Afrobeatinfluenced with a dark edge, while “Curiosity” satisfies as a certified slow jam. Transcending this world, “Yellow of the Sun” blends funk and escapism, as she imagines a Thelma & Louise- influenced vision: “Let’s drive right off this canyon, into paradise.” NAO weaves together both intimate and fictionalized accounts of her rollercoaster of a Saturn return on her second album, inviting listeners into the recent events of her life while charting new territory — her “wonky funk” moniker is nodded to, but this collection eclipses it. Drama is softened by sincerity on the record, as NAO finds balance in the wake of chaos. (Little Tokyo Recordings)
How did the process of reevaluating your life impact the writing of Saturn?
For All We Know is kind of like, my early 20s, my mid-20s, and now, this is like late 20s. I’m becoming a woman, and all those experiences impacted the writing so much, and also it impacted me from a creative point of view.
Did you feel like you had to honour “wonky funk” on this record?
I absolutely want to honour it, ’cause I feel like that’s recognizable. When people hear that wonky funk sound, they know it’s me, you know what I mean? They know, “Oh, that’s a NAO thing!” So I don’t wanna lose that, because it’s a really unique thing to be able to have. But as far as honouring it, and doing tunes like “Gabriel,” and even “Another Lifetime” has chord pitches like “Bad Blood,” and [you can] still see like, “Oh yeah, she’s still trying out some different stuff.” I wouldn’t call this album wonky funk at all. I don’t know what it is.