Dijon.’s Take on R&B Is Lovingly Worn and Incredibly Special

Dijon.’s Take on R&B Is Lovingly Worn and Incredibly Special

Dijon Duenas has one of those voices that feels like its sagging under the weight of the world. It’s lovely, sure, a wispy, soaring thing trained to fly by years of listening to psychedelic harmonizers as disparate as Animal Collective and Soul for Real, and singing sweet nothings and broken promises as part of the dreamy duo abhi//dijon. But in a string of solo songs he’s released over the last few years, he’s started to favor production that highlights the grit and the grime he’s able to evoke, multitracking these bombastic melodic swoops that run through the tenuous parts of his range.

He’s not afraid to yelp, or yell, or let his lower range fry out in this painful sounding way. There’s that famous Silver Jews lyric that says “All my favorite singers couldn’t sing,” and while I generally agree with that, I’m just as impressed by those who clearly can but push their voices into uncomfortable places anyway. It’s a sign they won’t ignore the pain.

“Wild,” dijon.’s newest single, is almost deceptive. On its face its an simple love song, told through diffuse imagery, topped with a chorus that goes simply “You make me go wild.” But dijon.’s voice adds a wrinkle, straining and swooning amid the heavy-lidded melodies. It’s there in duplicate and triplicate, static creeping in amidst all the overlapping takes, making the song feel like an act of desperation, slowly unraveling toward the conclusion, which just features the many dijon.’s singing the track’s title ad infinitum. It is desire unrestrained.

Looking closer at the imagery, you can see the signs too, dijon. paints a story of a lover running free, of “visions cold and crystalline,” empty apartments with the lights turned off, and a fast approaching winter. It’s a love song, told to someone out of reach, and no voice is better equipped to tell that complicated story than dijon.’s, which flips between self-possessed poetry and barely containable emoting with a composure that artists who’ve been doing this far longer than can’t really demonstrate. It’s subtle, but that’s part of why it works so well too, a universe contained in fragmented images and small gestures.

I am, as always, overthinking it, so let me put it more directly. Even as a lover of slow sad songs by idiosyncratic songwriters, I have heard few songs this year quite so moving. You would do yourself well to listen now before the rest of the world catches on. They surely will.