My first introduction to Cheryll rewinds back a few years. During a time of ‘creative rebellion’, I had decided to get a tattoo and dye my hair pink. I chickened out and ran from the tattoo parlour but was determined to get that pink hair. Scrolling on Twitter, I came across the “Need You” video. Not only had I found my hair inspiration but a new artist to add to my favourites!
Hailing from South London, Cheryll’s sound can best be described as a 90’s soul with a dash of modern-day swagger. After releasing numerous standalone singles last year, she enters 2021 with her first release in the form of an EP entitled ‘Transition’. Recorded in various over a 3 year period, Transition is a long-overdue project. A tracklist of just 5 with D’wante Navire as sole producer and engineer, the ep is a smooth mix of conventional and non-conventional R&B sounds.
Opening track “Crushin” is a mood-boosting throwback jam. With a slick interpolation of Yardbrough & People’s Don’t Stop The Music, the track is reminiscent of the butterflies felt during the early stage of romance. As Cheryll softly chants ‘ I just want to crush on you all night long over the 90’s tinged beat, I recoil remembering my late-night calls just to hear a former lover breathe. Lauren Marshall swings by to lend a verse. Though a fleeting feature, Marshall’s deep register steals the limelight. Only three singles were released, Marshall is new to the scene but after this feature, I’m sure many will be paying extra attention to her.
“Fess Up” represents a shift in perspective. Early butterflies have turned into a growing fear of false promises. Cheryll is direct in describing her frustration with the arrangement, singing – “Give me a sign boy/don’t waste my time boy/If you like what you see you better fess up”.
“Pressure” feels like a major scene change. ‘ I don’t know where this could go/we could take it slow/ no pressure”, the defiance found in the previous has vanished. The mellow mood of the track conveys a sense of Cheryll attempting to convince herself that she is satisfied with the arrangement and her partner’s constant mixed messages. Plush harmonies @1:25 induce what can only be described as an eargasm and though it is the highlight of the track it also further confirms my growing issue with Transition. Cheryll is a vocalist yet she merely delves into her strengths on the EP. For a split second, she allows her voice to explore before shutting it down and returning to her comfortable register. It’s almost as if she purposely teasing us on what she can achieve vocally.
“What About Us” is triggering to say the least. With typical honesty, Cheryll accepts that her lover is violating her intelligence. Far from having the enviably chill attitude she displayed in Pressure, Cheryll wrestles with herself in accepting accountability for overlooking the uncertainty from Fess Up “If I fell in love/ would you blame me?”.
A chilled beat with a soothing electric guitar melody, “Faded Memory” is the final chapter of this failed love story. Despite her lover’s opposition, Cheryll is steadfast in her decision to halt the affair. With a dreamy sonic atmosphere, the track is definitely the star on the EP and I can only imagine how blissful it would sound once performed live.
Transition is a beautifully cohesive set, lyrically intimate with each track reflecting on the different stages of a failed romance. Cheryl is the underdog on the UK R&B scene but this EP may just change that and solidify her position as the scene’s key player.