Having a world famous mother and father who’s managed some of the greatest performers in music history can make things a lot easier for a person to become famous. However, in the case of Jillian Hervey, she would be a star no matter who her parents were.
This week, Lion Babe’s album release party was held at the luxury boutique hotel, The Roxy Hotel, in Tribeca, NYC. It’s rare that a band’s first song is such a hit, but it’s the case with Lion Babe.
The group is comprised of singer Jillian Hervey, actress Vanessa Williams’ daughter, and producer Lucas Goodman, who goes by Astro Raw. They’ve been together for little over two years and have been in the studio with big names such as Pharrell, Childish Gambino and Mark Ronson. They’ve even captured the attention of Jay Z, who included them in his summer playlist on Tidal.
On their debut album Begin, singer Jillian Hervey and producer Lucas Goodman shuffle between disco, house, and neo-soul. And while they update these styles with the airy, wide-open production aesthetic of modern alternative R&B, their songs are rooted squarely in pop. There are no experimental digressions that might alienate the dance floor, no nods to the salad days of Brainfeeder or Ice Cream Records simply for the sake of bolstering the duo’s music-nerd cred. Lion Babe aren’t after cred. They’re after hits.
So far they don’t have those hits, of course, but they’ve come up with enough passable facsimiles to fill a pretty likable album. “Wonder Woman,” an anti-cat calling song produced by Pharrell (his atonement, perhaps, for “Blurred Lines”?), doesn’t ping the brain’s pleasure centers like his top-shelf work, but it’s pleasantly slinky, a nice throwback to the snappy R&B tracks the Neptunes used to pump out in the mid-’00s. “Jump Hi”‘s kinetic funk loop makes up for a lazy Childish Gambino guest verse, pasted onto the track like a placeholder for a better substitute the label never delivered. Opener “Whole” doubles down on the funk, with a jabbing groove that feels like a 2016 update of Nikka Costa’s forgotten hit “Like a Feather.” There’s no rigid vision tying together this grab bag. Lion Babe are open to any style that might lend itself to a personable, three-minute song, and that flexibility generally works for them.
Lion Babe is set to release their debut album, Begin, on Feb. 5, 2016. –raymond hagans