The singer rises above betrayal through unfiltered lyrics and a brilliant spin on the Latin American classic “Los Caminos de la Vida.”
Jessie Reyez’s soft, guttural vocals and uninhibited lyrics have captivated fans across the industry, leading the Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter to work with the likes of Beyoncé, Eminem, and even film director Alfonso Cuarón. She’s always been able to capture the feeling of raw heartbreak, something she does on her spellbinding new song “Mood” — only this time, the grief she sings about has to do with the end of a friendship.
The track, which opens her second studio album Yessie, begins with the sincere lyricism that was at the heart of her debut LP Before Love Came to Kill Us. Here, she sing-raps, “I get along with most men, more than I do with some women,” and then she launches into a story of crushing betrayal by a female friend: “I had a snake in the grass pretending to be my sister.” It’s a tricky subject that risks falling into common tropes of men being easier to befriend, but it comes across as a confession rather than an attack.
What takes the song to another level is the sample Reyez has deftly woven through the production: When the chorus hits, a distorted, high-pitched snippet of “Los Caminos de la Vida,” a Colombian classic by Los Diablitos, kicks in. The beloved vallenato favorite, a nod to the Toronto artist’s Colombian roots, was composed in 1992 by the Afro-Colombian singer Omar Geles and it’ been remade across Latin America as an anthem about the unexpected turns life can take. Light synths and percussion follow the song’s original folkloric rhythm as Reyez croons, “Life ain’t easy,” evoking a feeling of nostalgia and a desire for simpler times.
Closer to the end of “Mood,” Reyez sings about moving on with grace and finding relief from the pain she’s in. “I needed that hate, ’cause those ingredients make the underdog great,” she raps. The moment captures Reyez walking out of the shadows and into the rest of her album, where she’s actively seeking light.