Ravyn Lenae’s Crush EP Cover. Photo by Jingyu Lin. Source: Atlantic Records.

Chicago songstress Ravyn Lenae collaborates with The Internet’s Steve Lacy to deliver an EP brimming with intoxicatingly confident vocals over futuristic funk beats – a combination well-suited for arriving the week before Valentine’s Day.

Released on February 9, Crush follows up Lenae’s Midnight Moonlight and Moon Shoes, EPs that solidified her strength as a vocalist and lyricist through dark electro-soul; her past projects remained consistent with abstract themes of love, soothing falsettos, and mainly electronica instrumentation. The music on Crush reveals that Lenae has exchanged her soft, melancholic sound for mature, sultry vibes. Her stories are more confidently articulated through the five-song project, with powerful harmonies upon Steve Lacy’s guitar-filled production.

Opening the EP with “Sticky,” the lead single that garnered attention months before this release, Ravyn Lenae sets the tone for the funk-filled adventure she explores. She experiments with her vocal range, especially in the hook, coming off as unpredictable and exciting as the love interest she sings about; with her timbre, she is able to sound simultaneously coy and fearless. The song, whose instrumental features an organ and psychedelic guitar, balances old-school and modern elements of funk and soul, all whilst showcasing Lenae’s newly embraced boldness.

The EP drifts into a section of cosmic calm with “Closer (Ode 2 U)” and “Computer Luv.” The former is a dedication to her current lover with distorted, computerized backing vocals from Steve Lacy. Lenae’s coos and occasional subtle falsettos over electric guitar strums make it mesmerizing yet serene. Then, with “Computer Luv,” she narrates her distress, illuminated through crisp harmonies with Lacy, for an idealized lover with whom she currently shares nothing but a satellite connection. With this, she speaks to a new generation of dating and cyberspace – the dangers of digital infatuation. These motifs are mirrored by the R&B fused, dream pop instrumentation. The song ends with a voicemail from her London interest who has been allegedly following her music for three years and hopes to meet soon.

Her musical themes then more strongly transition into the sensual groove with another standout, “The Night Song,” which, as its title suggests, is about venturing onto an empowering, dance-filled night scene. This song highlights her angelic, breezy soprano over Lacy’s bass as she glides through lyrics embracing her femininity. The EP ends with a call-and-response style song, “4 Leaf Clover,” in which she searches for luck while being frustrated by a lack of commitment. Even with a more mellow guitar, it is a perfect way to tie the project together, ending with energizing vocals and the consistent theme of soft funk and self-assurance.

Overall, Ravyn Lenae has unveiled artistic growth with her Crush EP. The new sound makes me want to flaunt my existence and be chased. Though I admittedly miss the more ethereal, mystical tone that first enchanted me (very present on Moon Shoes and Midnight Moonlight), we should trust her artistic direction and ability to evolve. Looking forward, I anticipate Ravyn Lenae will continue to experiment and release a range of colorful music. Give Crush the listen it deserves this week for an upbeat, emotional journey.