Sayonne‘s deeply personal style of Caribbean-inflected R&B is a tremendous joy to hear. It’s a party-starter, a hot, festive summer day captured and preserved in sound waves. But it’s also as graceful and well-tailored as an evening dress. How does the New York artist strike this balance? Begin with the voice: sultry, powerful, theatrical, capable of simultaneously evoking the beaches of Trinidad and the clubs of Los Angeles. Then there are her productions, which draw from reggae and soca, contemporary pop, and the classic sets of ’70s and ’80s singer-songwriters. Music this elegant and soulful demands elegant and soulful videos, and director LJ Balkaran has delivered, with a pair of music videos that are perfect expressions of Sayonne’s aesthetic.
Begin with the video for “6 (Ignited)”, a song which makes Sayonne’s tropical roots manifest. Balkaran shoots the singer at various gorgeous sceneries in Montego Bay, Jamaica – and he makes the most of every inch of blue sky and every emerald wave. The director and the star take the viewer on the most luxurious vacation imaginable, complete with zip lines, horseback rides through the surf, buggy rides on dirt paths in the jungle, and plenty of fun on the sand. The video contains two dazzling choreographed sequences: one shot on the beach in front of the Caribbean Sea, and another on a wooden bridge across a green stream under a canopy of leaves. Everything about the video showcases the tropics at their most appealing – every tourist’s fantasy of carefree opulence, and every Jamaican’s pride in the stunning natural beauty of their home island.
The “2 Worlds (Remember)” clip is just as crisply shot, but it brings the viewer into closer quarters with the star. It begins with a moving sequence in which Sayonne, sings in front of a display of photographs of inspiring artists we’ve lost, her sense of history apparent with every phrase. It closes with footage of Sayonne on a swing, glitter shining on her face, eyes closed, deep in reflection. In between, Balkaran shoots the singer in a series of achingly beautiful settings, including a bathtub surrounded by vines and rose petals.
In both videos, the composition of every shot is exquisite: pause the video at any moment, and you’ll have something resembling a film poster. It’s a testament to the moment-to-moment excellence of Sayonne’s music, and her videos, too.