It seems like it was just yesterday when dvsn, the Toronto-based joint project between vocalist Daniel Daley and producer extraordinaire Nineteen85, debuted in 2015. In the brief time since their inception, dvsn has garnered 150 million streams and, arguably, landed the largest gig that any aspiring artist could land. In 2016 dvsn opened up for the Drake and Future on the notorious Summer Sixteen Tour, and with this brought their smooth, 90s R&B to the masses.
While although only debuting their music to the public within the past few years, dvsn has been involved in the music business for much of the last decade. In the early years, dvsn leaned heavily toward rap because, as Daley says in a recent Rolling Stone article, it wasn’t really the “coolest thing to say ‘Yo, I sing – have you heard that Boyz II Men record, that new Usher or Ginuwine?’” However, once 85 heard the remarkable voice of Daley, he knew that the talent couldn’t be ignored.
Through dvsn’s passion for R&B, they were connected to mega-star producer 40. 40, who is known primarily for his work with Drake and the rest of the OVO collective, remained in contact with the group for several years, despite constant travel with Drake, and eventually granted the young Toronto natives the opportunity of a lifetime: a record deal with OVO.
Within a few months of signing, the group made their major label debut with Sept. 5, and, shortly after, went on a global tour. Since then, they have made major headlining appearances including OVO Fest in Toronto.
Sept. 5 was a collection of moody, throwback songs for the soul that, to be honest, fell one step short of artistry. For a while they toured off of this material, but it seemed that there was something missing. Since the first release, however, dvsn has honed their sound to speak to something more than just love-distraught 20-somethings grinding against each other in Toronto. Their most recent release, Morning After, proves that dvsn, after nearly a decade of preparation has achieved their true voice.
Before even listening to the music, striking visuals capture the attention of listeners. The album art, a pink-washed, urban photograph which brings to mind nights with your significant other skating in the local high school’s parking lot, intoxicates and is a reason that this piece feels to be such a complete work of art.
Throughout the weeks leading up to the release of the album they published media in the forms of film posters and previews which alludes to a potential visual release along with the album, similar to Kanye West’s film for MBDTF and, most recently, Lil Uzi Vert’s release of cartoon videos to go along with Luv Is Rage 2.
Once the music begins, dvsn’s artistic vision comes full circle. The opening track, “Run Away,” just may be my favorite on the entire album. Nineteen85’s booming 808 is rendered timid by the ghostly falsetto of Daniel Daley. The combination is something that evokes a desire to bump from deep in soul.
“Think About Me” shows Nineteen85’s masterful production techniques, predominantly in the beautifully crafted autotune effect inflicted upon the transition phrases of Daley’s lyrics.
While the entire album is truly an exhibition of musical and visual beauty, there are a standout moments. The first of which is “P.O.V.” — a sensual track that utilizes a sample from soul legend Maxwell’s 1999 song “Fortunate,” which once again highlights dvsn’s commitment to classic R&B.
The maybe most triumphant moment from the project is the suave love ballad “Conversation in a Diner.” Daniel Daley serenades his love and professes his undying dedication over the smooth pads and synths of Nineteen85. Further, on this track we see the use of conversation samples that play under the music and lead to a full stereo effect.
Dvsn deserves immense praise for what they have created with Morning After; the album displays countless hours of dedication and truly masterful musicianship. Not only do I think that this album may have been one of the nicest surprises in the music industry thus far in 2017, but I also find it to, perhaps, be the best release of the year.
Peter Buonanno is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]