Lucky Daye is back. As we continue waiting for Lucky to drop the full-length follow-up to his 4x Grammy-nominated Painted, he has treated us to a special new EP for Valentine’s Day. On Table for Two, Lucky goes the conceptual route on a project that doubles as sonic speed dating and an intense look at the complexities and complications of love in the age of social media. Featuring duets with Yebba, Queen Naija, Tiana Major9, Mahalia, Ari Lennox, and Joyce Wrice, Table for Two isn’t very consistent in terms of the chemistry between Lucky and his guest artists, but the music never truly suffers as a result of that. With stellar production from D’Mile (Victoria Monét’s Jaguar, H.E.R.’s “Fight For You,” etc.), Table for Two sounds uniquely like a Lucky Daye project despite its explicit callbacks to R&B classics of eras past and an overall energy that would fit perfectly on a standard 2021 R&B playlist.
Date night begins with an AI hostess confirming Lucky’s reservation at the Table for Two Experience and treating him to a complimentary “ego check” at the door. Throughout the project, there’s evidence to suggest that Lucky either adhered to the “ego check” or ignored it. Regardless, the brief intro sets the scene for the emotional rollercoaster that is soon to follow. In terms of the “sonic speed dating” aspect of Table for Two, each full-length song is a collaboration with a different female R&B artist. Yebba, who scored her first Grammy nomination this year, is the first guest artist to appear on the stunning “How Much Can A Heart Take.” There’s no easing into the conversation here. Lucky and Yebba dive headfirst into the discomfort that comes with examining a relationship nearing its breaking point. Yebba sings “and then you turn around and blame it on the moon/Just ’cause you’re feelin’ blue,” in a sly reversal of the typical moon-mood-behavior metaphor we encounter in music. Often, there are undertones of misogyny when male artists bring up the moon to “explain” a woman’s mood or behavior, but Yebba is the one that introduces that line of metaphor in this song. It also helps that the two have strong vocal chemistry as their tight harmonies elevate the track. Instead of cluttering the tracklist with interludes, Lucky opts to attach brief spoken-word interludes to the outros on several tracks. For “How Much Can A Heart Take’s” outro, Lucky delivers a spoken-word verse that hinges upon wordplay based on different social media apps like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, etc. The wordplay previews the extra layers of pressure that social media and technology puts on romances.
If Table for Two does anything, it pays consistent attention to the details needed to fine-tune the musical universe being explored on the project. “On Read,” the Tiana Major9 duet, opens with the sound effects of iPhone text messages before morphing into bluesy guitar licks that set the foundation for hip-hop-leaning production and vocal performances. Lucky and Tiana explore both sides of being left “on read” and intentionally leaving a significant other “on read.” Structurally, through the set-up of the choruses, the song reflects the tension and stress that comes with read receipts. On other songs on this project, Lucky and the guest artist may sing the chorus in unison. On “On Read,” however, Lucky and Tiana each deliver their own choruses from opposing perspectives and only add a few ad-libs on the chorus that they are not singing lead on. “My Window,” assisted by Mahalia, and “Access Denied,” a duet with Ari Lennox, keep things moving. These two songs are very clearly steeped in the lineage of R&B with “My Window’s” chorus recalling New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain.” On “My Window,” Lucky and Mahalia tackle the give-and-take nature of relationships and this “date” seems to be moving into the direction of reconciliation by virtue of their mutual acknowledgment of how difficult this thing called “love” can be at times. Also, “it’s a shame tryna force somethin’ that would not be good,” is probably the most beautiful and heartbreaking line from a song this year. As for, “Access Denied,” Lucky and Ari opt to perform against a sample of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love.” Here, the two vocalists choose to deliver a more subdued vocal performance in the face of the sultry percussion and thumping production. Knowing that both Lucky and Ari can sang leaves more to be desired from “Access Denied,” but it’s not a weak offering in the slightest. The closing two tracks on Table for Two are fine, but ultimately not up to par with the first half of the project. The former, “Dream,” which first appeared on Queen Naija’s Missunderstood album, feels out of place. “Dream” steps away from the tangible issues of relationships and instead explores falling in love with an idealized version of love. This could have been fixed with better tracklist placement, but even then, it conceptually sticks out like a sore thumb, and Lucky and Queen Naija don’t have particularly impressive vocal chemistry. In that vein, “Falling In Love,” a duet with Joyce Wrice, is a nice closer, but it simply pales in comparison to the project’s earlier offerings.
Table for Two is an interesting concept with hit-or-miss results. When Lucky nails it, the songs are incredible. When things go a bit awry, the songs are a bit forgettable. In 2020, Lucky delivered some career-best duets with Kehlani (“Can You Blame Me”) and Kiana Ledé (“Forfeit”). Both of these songs are better than a hefty portion of Table for Two, but maybe that’s the point. If Table for Two is indeed to be examined as a kind of “sonic speed dating,” it makes sense that some duets yield stronger results than others. Regardless, Lucky has delivered another solid project that will make the wait for his sophomore album all the more excruciating.
Key Tracks: “How Much Can A Heart Take” | “On Read” | “My Window”