Dance Without Me

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As on their striking 2018 EP Lies After Love, Drama's debut album, Dance Without Me, proves why their name is so fitting for their ultra-smooth blend of R&B, dance, and pop. The moods that Via Rosa and Na'el Shehade create are as relatable as they are unmistakable; on the opening track, "7:04 AM," the way Rosa sings "Everybody's got somebody to call when the night is young" over gliding piano chords evokes reaching for someone in an empty bed. Rosa's sultry, quietly assured voice is the star attraction of Dance Without Me. Like Sade, Tracey Thorn, and the xx's Romy Madley Croft, she knows that a simple approach is often the most powerful, and she's never less than commanding when she confronts the doubts that trickle into long-term relationships on "Years" or subtly tells a lover it's their loss if they leave ("What if this is it? What if this is all that you get … Who will you love?"). While Shehade's productions justifiably showcase Rosa's voice, they're interesting in their own right. He often uses simple elements in clever ways, as on "Days and Days," where a nagging guitar line tiptoes over a crunchy, room-filling beat to hypnotic effect. The blend of restless rhythms with melodies and instrumentation that are so soft that they melt into listeners' ears on tracks like "911" reflects Drama's growth since Lies After Love. Shehade and Rosa's music has expanded to combine joy, sorrow, togetherness, and solitude in complex yet engaging ways. On the sparkling "Gimme Gimme" and the sunny, disco-tinged "Hold On," they find the hopeful side of heartache; on "Lifetime," they bring out the sexiness of truly committing to someone. Exquisitely crafted and emotionally genuine, Dance Without Me is a strong, self-assured debut that sounds like the work of an act that's much more seasoned than this duo.

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