We’ll save you the pontificating about the direction of Trey Songz’ career, because that pontificating will look quite different depending on whether you know him as a mixtape artist or as the guy on the radio who did “Bottoms Up” or whatever. We’d need five separate introductions with five paragraphs each, both of which would be wrong to some people. Instead, we’ll just say that “Heart Attack,” off upcoming album Chapter V, is very good and that you can listen to it below. It’s something you probably will want to do.
This is what happens to hearts in R&B now. They don’t break but dissolve in a cloudy, fetid mix of lo-fi sounds and synth haze; there’s nothing violent about it, just repetition, dwelling upon the same chords and same sinking synths and going nowhere. Trey might sing about love feeling like a heart attack, but the music doesn’t sound like a spasm so much as a slow paralysis.
That’s the aesthetic, at least, and Trey treats it fine. His voice is stronger, more nuanced than the lyrics, which is for the best when those lyrics are along the lines of “hurt so fucking bad / worst pain that I ever had.” He makes them ignorable; sometimes he even makes them resonate. (Listen to “It’s killing me”; particularly listen to the wordless parts.) Similarly, this isn’t the lushest musical setting–it’s a tingle compared to “Climax,” let alone more established classics. But Benny Blanco generally handles lo-fi well, and this is easily the best thing he’s produced in a while. (Co-producer Rico Love probably helps there.)
Sure, “Heart Attack” sounds like the sort of heartbreak you’ll get over in a month and a rebound. Its feelings aren’t made for grand narratives but fleeting phone calls, and its pain would top out no scale. But why judge on those terms? “Heart Attack,” for what it is, sounds nothing but sincere and competent: not whiny, not overdramatic. It’s harder than you’d think to convey a feeling that accurately.