In his new single and music video “Cali Queen,” talented up and comer James Cole combines slick hip-hop beats with a graceful R&B serenade. Right out of the gate, we’re washed in a colorful, textured vocal harmony that will become the central foundation for the entire track. The instrumental arrangement here is sophisticatedly complex, but as multifaceted as it undeniably is, it never distracts us from the biggest star in this show – Cole himself. “Cali Queen” is a splendid showcase of this young contender’s sharpest talents, and for those who have never heard his work before, it’s an excellent encapsulation of what his musical aesthetics are all about.
Let’s start by breaking down the music video for the song. Cole is wandering around an otherwise deserted airport, taking in the barren surroundings, a look of determination flanked with youthful angst in his eyes. His ultimate destination soon becomes clear as we see him chatting with the elegant California queen referenced in the title of this single, and by the time we reach the conclusion of the video, he’ll have arrived on the sandy beaches of the Pacific, his lady awaiting both him and his guitar with an open heart. The design here is really simplistic, the shots have a nice fluidity to them, and the production quality is top of the line, but best of all, there’s nothing overly bombastic in the stylization. In a summer that has been plagued with excesses across the pop music spectrum, Cole’s video is a rare instance of streamlined, tightly produced magic.
The bass line that cushions the vocal in the background is pretty thick, but it isn’t generating most of the energy in this song at all; contrarily, I actually think that the vocal harmonies are the most muscular element to behold in “Cali Queen.” Cole has such an unbelievably strong voice, and he’s utilizing every inch of sonic space in this master mix to warm up the track from the ground-up. Everything centers on his lyrical lashings, from the movement of the percussion to the structuring of the synthetic melodies that adorn every beat.
If “Cali Queen” is indeed a taste of what we can expect to hear out of James Cole’s camp in the next few releases that he puts together, then personally I cannot wait to hear more of his material. I get a sense of vulnerability in his music, specifically here, and his willingness to open up to the audience without hiding behind any of the grandiosities. Cole has all the makings of an elite player in the modern game. He’s on the right track with this latest studio work, and my gut tells me that his star-caliber campaign won’t be slowing down anytime soon.