This week brought the release of Lauriana Mae’s much-anticipated EP City of Diamonds, and this New Jersey singer-songwriter has not disappointed. The EP is the follow-up to her 2011 debut EP Love Mae, as well as her 2013 collaboration with Cee-Lo Green on his track “Only You”. This time around, Mae highlights her evolving versatility and creativity as an artist, while maintaining her velvety smooth vocals and solid lyrics.
The EP begins with the previously released “Protect Ya Neck,” which features a sample of the classic 90’s Wu-Tang hit of the same name. With slick soulful vocals strikingly reminiscent of the late Amy Winehouse, this track offers a vintage sound that feels pleasantly nostalgic.
Mae then moves us along with the bluesy and more downtempo “NYPD Blue.” Showcasing her lyrical talent, Mae sings about the corrupt actions of NYC police, drawing parallels to oppressive figures in her own life. While slow-burning and packed with powerful words, this track is still in keeping with the consistently soulful R&B sound of the EP.
The third track, “This Pain,” is a particular standout with its slick beat and smoky vocals. But what’s most interesting about this track is the addition of rapper B.o.B.. A perhaps unlikely pairing, they drawn on a sample of Avant and Keke Wyatt’s “Nothing in This World” in order to tie their two voices together. Surprisingly the result is a perfect combination, with B.o.B.’s smooth rhymes complementing Mae’s jazzy vocals, rather than distracting from them.
“This Pain” is followed by “Marvelous”, which is perhaps the most quirky track on the EP. And yet again again Mae’s vocals seem to take center-stage and provide a seamless and consistent sound from one track to the next. The EP ends with just a hint of big band on “City of Diamonds” and Mae takes this final opportunity to show off her retro-soul sound. This track offers us a glimpse at the struggles of making it in NYC and Mae’s own personal journey as an artist.
As a whole, City of Diamonds showcases Mae’s evolution in sound from her debut EP Love Mae, largely leaving behind the big band sound, she manages to perfectly highlight her vocals and provides us with a refreshingly modern take on soulful R&B-pop. While she laments that “when you live in the city of diamonds, it’s hard to shine”, this EP undoubtedly proves that Mae is on her way to the kind of recognition she deserves.
Listen to the EP now in its entirety on Soundcloud.