Daniel Caesar is a disciple of love and wants to make you a believer.
On his debut album, “Freudian,” Daniel portrays himself as a devout man who only wishes to find favor with the woman he worships. However, while on his path to glory, Daniel finds himself combating temptation and doubt as they look to obstruct the sanctity of his relationship. With the help of his lovely guest features, the 22-year-old singer from Toronto uses his voice to detail feelings of unworthiness, longing and fulfillment. “Freudian” masterfully interpolates popular gospel songs to further aid Daniel in constructing his ministry of love.
On the opening song, “Get You,” Daniel establishes the theme of the album as he uses powerful imagery to bestow lofty praise upon the woman he loves.
He testifies, “Through drought and famine, natural disasters/My baby has been around for me/Kingdoms have fallen, angels be calling/None of that could ever make me leave.” Daniel paints his love interest as a divine being who remains by his side no matter how cataclysmic the event. In the same breath, he assures that nothing could deter him or shake his faith in her.
This metaphor Daniel uses to describe their relationship is not only romantic but also effective in relaying the magnitude of his feelings throughout the album. For instance, on “Blessed,” Daniel comes off as a remorseful sinner who is grateful to have someone willing to deal with his transgressions. Even when he considers leaving his girlfriend on “Loose,” the sincerity of his words are moving.
Daniel’s words are only reinforced by his rich and comforting singing. Rather than boarding an escalator to the heavens to strike the highest notes, Daniel sticks to a more earthly range that feels so much tenderer. It is also very refreshing to hear an artist rely on his vocals as instead of distorting his voice for additive effects. While Daniel’s romanticization of his girl makes her seem ethereal, Daniel’s avoidance of vocal acrobatics and voice enhancers keeps him grounded and relatable.
The production on “Freudian” does a great job of tying all of the above together as the album borrows ideas and sounds from gospel music. Much of the instrumentation is what you would expect to hear at a church service such as the airy organ that hums at the end of the song “Freudian.” However, the album avoids becoming unnecessarily stuffy on songs like “Hold Me Down” where a guitar rocks alongside Daniel. Unlike the 808 heavy trap-style R&B that has become so popular recently, the production here never overshadows or subtracts from Daniel’s singing.
The album’s flattering imitation of gospel music does not end with merely copying the instrumentation as “Freudian” utilizes choirs and familiar melodies. The choir is used sparingly, but whenever it decides to make its grand entrance, it feels as though I am sitting third row in the pews, nodding in approval of Daniel’s verses.
This euphoric feeling only intensifies on “Hold Me Down,” where the choir assists Daniel in interpolating Kirk Franklin’s “Hold Me Now.” The use of Franklin’s melody is done so tastefully that the lines between the two genres become blurred as Daniel and the choir voice their need for love and loyalty.
The album makes great use of its unique cast of features by allowing some talented women to play to their strengths. The mysterious H.E.R. takes the form of Daniel’s lover on “Best Part” while delivering soulful vocals that detail her deep appreciation for the album’s protagonist. Charlotte Day Wilson and Kali Uchis encourage and comfort Daniel on their respective songs with their immaculate voices. On the song “Take Me Away,” the always-cool Syd backs up Daniel on the most sensual song of the album, proving Daniel is no saint.
“Freudian” is a beautiful album that features one man unashamedly confessing his insecurities before the woman he adores. Backed by the gospel-inspired production, Daniel’s words carry a sort of weight that makes you resonate with his romantic struggles. If nothing else, this wayward soul who longs for love will inspire you to love and to believe.