Words by Genice Phillips
With a smooth and silky voice harmonizing over steady bass strings and guitar solos, Toian’s new EP, Retrospect, brings a sound reminiscent of the ‘80s and ‘90s era of dancehall, with just a touch of R&B in the mix.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Toian has grown in popularity over the past few years, collaborating with Vybz Kartel (Ice Queen), and Proteje (Shot By Love) in recent singles. Bringing riddim blends with the help of dancehall producer Sean Alaric (Class One Music), Toian’s melodic, fluttery voice and enchanting lyricism, ties together with the traditional elements of reggae and pop.
Her lead single, “Rude Boys,” showcases the innocent good girl with a ‘bossey bad gyal’ counterpart, painting a picture of the world on the other side of Toian’s retro-specs. She’s a young woman loving and living on the edge, her way.
Other tracks – “Love It” and “Style & Fashion” – have a certain ‘pop and bounce’ that takes you for a ride. Light and airy, Toian captures mellow vibes but teases with bold flirtations and exurberant, playful melodies, evoking a Barrington Levy style (‘be-lam-bam-bam’).
“Next To Me” slows up the tempo and portrays a more intimate side, revealing the ebbs and flows of a fast-paced relationship. Over an R&B/Rocksteady-infused instrumental, the track contains a more rhythmic and conversational flow of balladry.
As a heartfelt finisher, “Come Away” is a bittersweet requiem, where Toian reminisces over the good times after having loved and lost. In 2009, a tragic car accident nearly left the singer paralyzed from the waist down and claimed the life of her close friend. With modest instrumentation and a stripped-down sound, Toian’s delicate voice flutters and stirs as she recalls a time of excitement that ended in grief. “Blinded by the headlights/fast life don’t stop for the red lights/Didn’t realize ‘til now, when I heard you say/Won’t you come away with me/ Won’t you come away…”
Retrospect is a balanced project, filled with tunes that show off Toian’s confectionary voice and musicality, but tempers with rebellious undertones, accelerating a fresh, youthful vision of contemporary reggae and dancehall music.