Cookiee Kawaii: Vanice’s Album Review
Club Jersey relies on breathtaking and exhilarating speed. It’s a style of music that’s almost impossible to listen to without wanting to dance: the edgy, fast-paced samples and the seamless mix of house, R&B and hip-hop insist on movement, even if you can’t keep up with the tempo. . The genre has reached mainstream recognition in spurts, most recently thanks to DJ Telly Tellz’s sampling of Ciara’s “Level Up”. But for years, the New Jersey regional scene has been a hotbed of talent, including Irvington-born Cookiee Kawaii, who has been making club music for a decade. Kawaii’s sultry take on style took on a life of its own last summer through TikTok: the ass-shaking “Vibe (If I Back It Up)” of her. Club Soda, Vol. 2 EP, dancing ducks and live-action soundtracks Sailor moon riffs. With a perfectly curled hook and wispy vocals, the short and instantly rewarding track garnered enough hype to earn a Tyga feature and Gold Record certification.
Now Kawaii is coming back with Vanice, a first official album which aims to highlight the Jersey club scene as it is rendered in his image. Produced by house legend Junior Sanchez, the 16-song set is quite made to present itself. The minimalist underpinnings that give the genre its satisfying punch – stammering breakbeats, aggressive tempos – emerge, though they’re often rooted in more offbeat production choices. Familiar percussive woofs and a squeaky sample from the bed (the same that powers “Vibe”) establish the album’s lineage and provide a welcome reminder of Kawaii’s own breakthrough in heat seeking. “H @ ters Anonymous” takes these basics and applies them to a ballroom banger that easily repels online trolls: ability to twist club jersey into different shapes at will.
Elsewhere, Kawaii’s pop and R&B instincts are in the spotlight. “Planet Us”, a love ode to dancing on the moon with your boo, opens with brave synths and picks up on the chorus. On “Love Your Body,” Kawaii exchanges flirty verses with Los Angeles-based neo-soul artist Oya Noire, moving towards a laid-back R&B sound that suits her shrugged come-ons. The changes aren’t always there: opener “Cookiee & the Monsters (Turn Me Up)” tries out against a Rico Nasty-style emo backdrop, with overworked guitar riffs. The looped strings on “Violin” fare better, as Kawaii unrolls a mile-per-minute verse: “I hit the bank then cash in / The same way I hit the booth and go wild she rapped, giving proof in the tenacious performance.
Titled after the artist’s first name, Vanice is also meant to reveal more facets of his personality alongside self-confident soil fillers; the album is “the root of it all … who I am apart from being Cookiee Kawaii,” she said in a statement. Yet for all of his delightful and changeable Jersey club blasts, the record doesn’t stretch that far into his lyrics, which stay firmly in a pushed mode that’s less interested in introspection. As a magnetic party initiator, Vanice clearly succeeds, but there is room for the personality who created these songs to liven them up too.
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