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A track-by-track guide to NAO's debut album, "For All We Know"

Amber Mackie

 // Jul 30, 2016

It was a regular Saturday afternoon, I was in H&M shopping when I found myself grooving to the music that was playing throughout the store. I remember thinking, Who in the world is this singing and why don’t I know her? Her soprano tone and electronic sound instantly pulled me in. I quickly retrieved my phone out of my bag and went straight to my Shazam app. In just seconds I found that the mousey, striking but sultry voice that I was hearing belonged to British singer NAO, and the song that I couldn't get enough of was titled "Bad Blood.”

With NAO’s long-awaited debut studio album finally here it’s vital for all who aren’t familiar with the East London singer/songwriter to get accustomed, quickly. Here is a track-by-track review of For All We Know. If you aren’t already, be prepared to fall in love.

Intro (Like Velvet)

From the very beginning, NAO’s soothing voice sends you into a trance while she daintily sings, “Feels just like velvet / A touch of the wind, then it’s gone.” She is joined by a choir as they sing her background vocals, “Want only to take the flame to the bridge of dawn." While the intro is only 36 seconds long you instantly crave more of the first of the four short interludes on this project.

Get to Know Ya

The second track gives us what NAO is known for: her memorable soprano tone mixed with her electro R&B sound. Heavy on the electric guitar, she sings about wanting to get to know someone she’s rather fond of. Although she’s trying to become better acquainted with that special person who she wants to be her significant other, it doesn’t seem to be working out in her favor as she sings, “Thinking I can hold onto, oh / Clouds that I keep falling through.” While her feelings are all over the place, one thing that's certain is this track is a catchy one.

Inhale Exhale

The first thing you hear when this tracks comes on is the crisp but edgy sounds of the bass guitar. The funky feel makes you automatically start moving, whether you realize it or not. This track also brings out NAO’s rebellious side. She's unapologetically faultfinding with her take-it-or-leave-it attitude and while she realizes she can get lost in her warring behavior, by the time she "inhales and exhales, she’s back again.” This is definitely a club banger.

Voice Memo 161

This 23-second interlude serves as the decoration that pieces the album together. You can hear NAO freestyling melodically while being inside of a recording studio, giving us “Yes, these are my real vocals and not Auto-Tune” realness.

Happy

“Happy” is a track that does just what it says. This carefree record talks about NAO’s alacrity to make a special someone feel good. “I’ll take care of you and make you happy / What you need, I got the time.” Along with her determination to make that special someone smile, this song encompasses a wide range of electronic-based sound. While listening to “Happy” you get a little techno, house, drums and of course that heart-pounding bass.

Voice Memo 162

Back in the recording studio, NAO continues to give us personable snippets of her laying down tracks for her album. The interlude opens with the sounds of her infectious laughter and ends with her telling her bass guitar player, “I didn’t want it to end.”

Don’t worry NAO, we’re not ready to stop listening.

Adore You

Have you ever adored someone so much that they made your sleep wait, because thinking of them takes all of your nights away? Well, NAO has. The singer seductively pours her heart out on “Adore You” to someone she’s crazy about, but she isn’t alone. Musical artist and Maryland native Abhi Dijon joins her on the cut in his tranquilizing, composed tone, assuring NAO that he in fact adores her too. If you’re deeply, madly and crazily in love with someone, this passionate duet will be one of your favorites, for sure. It’s definitely one of mine. 😍

In the Morning

NAO’s lovey dovey vibes end quickly as she sings about letting go of a man she once loved on her eighth track “In the Morning.” Her brutally honest lyrics cut deep as she sings, “He’s falling even deeper, didn’t see it coming / His heart belongs to me but I’m still running / Away 'cause I can’t tell him / I don’t love him anymore.” For all of the ladies who have ever fallen out of love with someone who truly cares for them, this song is for you. NAO’s powerful tone is so raw, even if you can’t relate to the situation, you can still feel her passion. Oh, and did I mention the sharp instrumental electronic beats under her soothing vocals from beginning to end? #FIRE 🔥

Trophy (feat. A.K. Paul)

Ever date someone who treated you like you were just a number? Like a trophy that they could just flaunt around without a care in the world? Well, after listening to this track it seems that NAO has, however she isn’t here for it or “him," at all. “Trophy" is the self-empowering female anthem on this project that will give any girl that "Boy bye! I’m the shit, so you better get in line" attitude while listening. After the singer is done ripping “him" to shreds R&B singer A.K. Paul joins in on the bridge acting as the “him” NAO has been referring to. He continues to try to make things right while adding a funky rock sound to NAO’s electro R&B tone.

Bad Blood

“Bad Blood” is the first single off of For All We Know and the song that made me fall absolutely in love with NAO as an artist. When listening to this song you are truly able to witness the depth of her vocal range as she switches from alto to soprano throughout the song. Her vibrato brings the song to life as well as the sharp chords of electric guitar that spark musical movement. The song is about a person developing feelings of hate for another due to contentious memories they’ve shared in the past. Not only is this song captivatingly addictive but it’s definitely on my Top 5 Songs of All Time list.

Dywm

Kicking things off with the canorous sounds of the guitar NAO tells a story of how she’s falling for a guy but is scared of being rejected because of a heartbreak that he’s experienced in the past. “Dywm” (Do you want me) is an upbeat song of her reassuring the guy that she’s falling for that it’s okay to fall in love with her, but before she moves forward she needs to know if he wants her the way she wants him. While the repetitive lyrical content makes this track likable, music lovers will appreciate the funky instrumentals.

We Don’t Give A

If you’ve ever been judged for loving someone who others weren’t too fond of NAO is here to tell you that you shouldn’t give a 🙊.. The British singer's impenitent ride-or-die attitude toward her significant other is truly laudable as she sings, “No matter what they think, I’m all for you / When I'm by your side, just walk on through / I think that we should tell them (just tell them) / Oh,no / We don’t give a...” Along with the happy-go-lucky lyrics, if you like to dance, this is definitely a track you can groove to.

Give Me a Little

There's something about the pulsating sound of drums that instantly brings life to whatever it is that I’m listening to. "Give Me a Little” begins with what sounds like a conga drum while the beat builds as NAO chimes in with her soft, humming tone. For the first time ever, the instrumentals of this track vanquish NAO’s vocals. From the sounds of various types of drums to the cymbals and the bass this song creates an exclusive sound that channels a mixture of electronica and R&B vibes.

Fool to Love

Produced by British DJ and music producer GRADES, “Fool to Love” is the second single off of the album. While this song musically gives off serious '90s vibes, the lyrics focus on a relationship turned sour. Although the singer regrets loving the person she was involved with she finds that through her foolish decisions she’s found her self-worth again as she sings away all of the insecurities she once had. She takes listeners on a journey that surrounds her relationship and self-motivation.

Voice Memo 4 (Say Yes)

You know nothing about R&B if you aren’t familiar with Floetry’s smooth, seductive, jazzy hit single, "Say Yes." On the fourth and final short interlude of the album, you can hear a male vocalist singing, “All you gotta do is say yes / Don’t deny what you feel let me undress you, babe / Open up your mind and just rest / I’m about to let you know, you make me so…” The male vocalist is joined by sweet harmonizing female vocals that you can’t help but want to hear more of. Although it was just a snippet life was given!

Blue Wine

Ladies and gents, the ballad we’ve been waiting for. NAO gives us a break from the upbeat head nodders and leads us to a powerful, nostalgic song that tells the story of a woman healing from a broken heart. Her lyricism is almost poetic as the song makes me feel like she’s fusing spoken word with soulful vocals.

She also uses blue wine as a form of symbolism. In the second verse NAO sings, “I’ve been waking up to freeze the sunrise / Hoping it’s a way to reach the high life / I knew it all, stepping out to find I know nothing at all / And I’ve been drinking red, but bleeding only blue wine." While the color blue is associated with depth and stability in NAO’s case the blue wine symbolizes the newfound wisdom that she’s learned from heartbreak. She’s bleeding out the lessons learned that are now beneficial to her mind, body and soul.

Girlfriend

Serving as her third single, “Girlfriend” tells a story of NAO yearning for a man and her hopeless desire for a love that can “make her fly.” Hmmmm, it seems like you’re crushing kind of hard over there, girl.

Feels Like (Perfume)

NAO closes out her 18-track LP with a song that she makes sure you won’t forget. A woman’s scent is something that makes her unique. On this track she’s seducing a man with the simple thought of everything from her presence down to the scent of her perfume, as she vividly sings about all of the different ways she’ll make sure he'll never forget her. NAO’s vibrato brings a sexy and seductive vibe to the track. It’s definitely a song that you can buss a slow wine to. #justsayin

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