Nick Andre’s “L.A.’s on Fire”, one of two new singles from this songwriter, producer, and label owner, begins with the suggestive sounds of seemingly distorted synth guitar effects along with the sound of a metropolis ablaze. It’s the perfect opening salvo in what soon turns into a ride through modern urban hell and one man’s take on the carnage. He brings just enough sonic firepower to bear here that it makes the desired impact while still keeping its vocals the heart of the song’s message. There’s a number of slants he takes here getting across the song’s subject and the presence of special effects on the song’s voices never diminishes its words or effectiveness. It accentuates the atmosphere, instead, and gives the track a slightly cinematic feel.
The words pull no punches. Andre isn’t here to give you comfort or succor regarding what it’s like for a minority or person of color in crime ridden urban America, but he’s enough of a conscious artist to frame these examinations of American life today with compelling backing tracks rather than token musical frameworks. Some may find the framework for the second single, “Guns”, to be too sparse, too stripped down. The song sports little more than a drum track to accompany the vocal, but the percussion never embraces a dumbed down attack and, instead, mixes things up enough to keep it interesting. We lose the cinematic feel of “L.A.’s on Fire”, but the level of passion he brings to the work remains just as high. Andre does throw us a significant curve ball with the chorus, but it’s a wry commentary on the subject matter. The near joyous tone comes squarely at odds with the lyrical content in the chorus and elsewhere and it’s layered with a light veneer of post production effects. One interpretation of the tone is that Andre is slyly mocking our national veneration for guns and, if so, it’s a neat move from the composer.
These are powerful singles that show Nick Andre’s vision is confident and emboldened by something he needs to say. He never comes across as over-zealous and both songs illustrate a composer and collaborators who, at all times, are sure of what to do and how to do it. His aforementioned balancing act between getting his message across and still producing entertaining musical settings is laudable; far too many of his peers, in all styles, err too far in one direction or the other when required to maintain the same balance. You need not be a devout hip hop fan or possess a social conscience to appreciate these songs – both casual and devoted music listeners will find something to appreciate about these efforts. “L.A.’s On Fire” and “Guns” rank among the year’s best single releases so far and there’s every indication Andre will continue working in this fruitful vein for some time to come.