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Daniel Caesar’s ‘Never Enough’ presents music for the soul

Graphic by Sarah Irwin

When I was a freshman in high school in 2017, I was enamored with Daniel Caesar’s song “Get You.” Six years, one controversy and two albums later, the R&B singer has reemerged with his third project, “Never Enough.”

Across 18 songs – making this his longest album to date – Caesar explores his past, the process of falling in love, the rise and fall of relationships, conflicting feelings about aging and self-awareness.

Various artists lend their vocals to Caesar’s latest work, from well-known names like Ty Dolla $ign, Summer Walker and Rick Ross to underground stars like Omar Apollo and serpentwithfeet.

There are multiple references to dates and locations in the first few tracks with “Ocho Rios,” a lively song whose title is the name of a town in Jamaica, and “Toronto 2014” with fellow Canadian artist Mustafa. Backed by a steady knocking beat, the duo pays homage to their birthplace and passionately relishes in their love for their city.

The album has different types of instrumentation that diversify its feel and sound. Ballads like “Toronto 2014” and “Cool” showcase piano and acoustic guitar while “Homiesexual” and “Disillusioned” are upbeat, drum-heavy songs.

In no particular order, Caesar takes listeners through various stages of a relationship. On “Valentina,” he is confident, charming and smooth as he serenades the song’s namesake. “Superpowers” has a soothing hum that carries throughout the track, joined by drums in the second verse while he tells a woman how special she is.

The mood turns melancholy on “Let Me Go” and “Please Don’t Lean” which examine hard times and uncertainty. Caesar delivers silky, emotional vocals that demonstrate growth and maturity as he admits that he can no longer maintain the relationship.

Caesar’s display of vulnerability and insecurity is especially authentic and relatable on “Always” and “Buyer’s Remorse.” The former is sweet and intense as Caesar pours his heart out to describe how he’ll always be there for the person he loves, even if things change between them. 

Life’s complexities come to the surface on “Pain is Inevitable.” Backed by enchanting piano and violin, Caesar digs deep to lament the frustration that accompanies coming to terms with past mistakes.

The standout is easily “Do You Like Me?” It’s funky and optimistic, expressing the reality of wanting to be with someone but not knowing if the feeling is mutual. Everyone can relate to the translation of the excitement and anxiety that comes with a potential connection.

On the flip side, “Vince Van Gogh” is among the underwhelming tracks on the album. It opens with maraca-like sounds and incorporates random interludes with extensive voice distortion. Altogether, it feels experimental and out of place.

Also at the bottom of the pack are “Unstoppable” and “Shot My Baby.” Both are confusing, but the latter is extremely difficult to vibe with. There’s an aura of toxic masculinity as Caesar tells the story of a jealous man who catches his partner cheating and enters a violent fit of jealousy. It’s an odd and distasteful inclusion.

Despite suffering from a few missteps, the album is undoubtedly soulful. These songs feel like the morning sun shining through the blinds at the start of a new day or a warm hug from a loved one when they know that you need it the most. 

Caesar brings a unique and unforgettable neo-soul sound to every song on “Never Enough.” His spiritual core combined with his ability to be honest, truthful and fearless is a recipe for musical success. 

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