If the mission of pop music is to appeal to the broadest possible audience, then Yuna may be among the most ambitious stars shining in today's soundscape. Born and based in Malaysia, a country remarkable for its linguistic, religious, and general cultural diversity, Yuna brings her perspectives on life, love, and womanhood to the global stage time and time again with sincerity and soul. On new album Rouge, she gets particularly personal on topics like public and private identities and relationships with finely-crafted dance jams and slow ballads alike. Adding to her image as an internationally-minded artist are a wide range of featured guest stars originally from very different markets - Jay Park, Little Simz, Tyler, the Creator - all joining Yuna on the way to her grand finale, where she sings solo on a track completely in Malay.
Rouge is, in some ways, a redefinition of what it means to be a worldwide star. The same factors that make it unique, also make it the epitome of successful pop music; it's easy to listen to and deliberately engaging of audiences everywhere. Yuna's repertoire is an exceptional one, and Rouge is a particularly powerful addition to it.
Sleek production lets Yuna's voice come through with exquisite clarity, often layered across multiple octaves. This instrument and the passion with which she wields it make for lush pop music with sensual R&B overtones. Winding strings and faux-vinyl crackling introduce opening track "Castaway" and move forward on the momentum of funk beats. Yuna's breathy verses lead into a mellow rap break from Tyler, the Creator, keeping the track slow and steady. It's always a pleasure to listen to Yuna keep it mid-tempo or even slow it to a ballad; she has the kind of voice that doesn't need speed to sound interesting.
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