Album Review: Victoria Monét Comes Into Her Own With ‘Jaguar’

Victoria Monét is one of the leaders of an incredible group of Black women that has been shaping the sound of pop music for the past few years. With writing credits on songs for Ariana Grande (“goodnight n go,” “7 rings“), Brandy (“Rather Be”), and Chloe x Halle (“Do It“), Victoria has helped craft blockbuster hits, entries into the mainstream, and new cuts for veteran artists. Her own releases have had bright spots, but have felt rocky and inconsistent until now. 2020 will go down as the year that Victoria Monét finally hit her stride as her own artist, but her winning streak really began at the tail end of 2019.

It all started with “Ass Like That,” the sultry ode to fitness and self-love. Built on drum and bass, the nearly 4-minute track takes its time to hit its peaks and takes extended rests in its valleys. The dynamics of the track are innately connected to its length, it’s a slow-burner like most of the songs on Jaguar. This is a welcome change from the quick sub-3-minute tracks that streaming has forced so many artists to turn to. “Ass Like That” is pure, unadulterated R&B, a genre that Victoria ultimately explores different facets of on Jaguar. The first in a series of three separate projects that will eventually form her debut studio album, Jaguar is a strikingly cohesive examination of sex and sexuality through different subgenres of R&B.

The project opens with “Moment,” a song that I named as one of the best of the year so far. “Moment” is a bombastic moment for Victoria and her own musical career, it simply feels like a big record. From the tantalizing strings to the yearning pre-chorus, Victoria crafted the sexiest song of the year. It is all tied together by her delicate falsetto and sultry overall vocal delivery, two of the heroes of Jaguar. “Moment” immediately situates the project in a hazy universe of explicit explorations of sex. Victoria sings some of the nastiest phrases (“land it like a plane on my back, if you can’t hold it) so beautifully that they lose their meaning for a split second. “Moment” soon transitions into “Big Boss,” the first of two interludes on the project. “Big Boss” feels like a natural extension to “Moment,” but its true purpose is to set the stage for a pivotal script flip. On this interlude, Victoria sings of how she wants to make partner “feel Big boss like a thousand dollar bill,” but those luxurious harmonies are flipped on their head with the next track: “Dive” — a sensuous ode to cunnilingus where Victoria is the “Big Boss” and the one in total control of her sexual pleasure and how she chooses to navigate it. Complete with the squeaks of a rocking bed, moans, and a gorgeous horn section, “Dive” is an easy standout on Jaguar. Victoria switches between a fast-paced cadence in the verses that gradually slows down as she reaches the hook, a strategy she employs on later tracks like “Go There With You.”

Tribe Records

“Dive” also sets the stage for the portion of Jaguar that really digs into the various intersections of funk, disco, and R&B. There’s the title track which balances more horns with wordplay around cats, pussy, nine lives, etc. Conceptually, “Jaguar” adds an air of mystique to the project’s general concept. Victoria channels her inner Donna Summer on “Experience,” the project’s sole collaboration which features contributions from Khalid and SG Lewis. It’s a particularly empowering song about freedom of choice and living without fear of retribution and it has a solid foundation of effervescent synths and joyous horns. Khalid is practically unintelligible on this track, but his deeper voice is the perfect contrast to Victoria’s fluttery tone. Victoria delivers hits with the disco-inspired tracks, but she really excels when she delves into rock&B on “Go There With You.” The track’s chunky guitar and drums are reminiscent of Miguel‘s Wildheart album and they offer a break from the brass that had anchored the project up until this point. This track adds some color and complexity to the narrative thread of the project; Victoria gets vulnerable about “picking fights like its Fortnite” and finding “a better way to scream your name.”

Jaguar draws to a close with “Touch Me,” one of the few tracks on the project where Victoria uses she/her pronouns to describe her lover. This subtle moment is actually quite monumental for a bisexual Black woman that is basically running the music industry. The song builds on the vulnerability of “Go There With You” as Victoria delivers one of her most effective and emotive vocal performances to date. The song ends with a gorgeous a capella moment that sounds beautiful, but also feels unfinished. Although Jaguar is just the first taste of Victoria’s debut album, it is undoubtedly a strong body of work. If only we hadn’t heard half of the songs as individual tracks before the project’s release.

Score: 73

Key Tracks: “Ass Like That” |”Jaguar” | “Go There With You”

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