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I want to compare this guy to the talents of our time and prior – if only to try and understand the sheer mastery on display. I genuinely do.

There’s the vocal control and songwriting like Frank Ocean along with a falsetto that reads like a humbler, more organic version of The Weeknd’s. It’s hard not to pick up on the natural trap elements that brings the likes of Bryson Tiller and Ty Dolla $ign to mind. Although subtle, there are performance elements that beckon Prince and choral arrangements that feed off 90’s R&B influences Boyz II Men, 112, and Backstreet.

But I don’t think tracing derivatives or comparisons do dvsn justice – or have a place for that matter. This is music that comes from such a genuine and vulnerable place that its value, to both an individual listener and to music culture as a whole, is lost when trying to accept it as anything less than authentic.

Toronto’s dvsn has released four songs to date, now available across all major streaming services. Nobody knows who he is or what he looks like. This strategy, employed successfully by the likes of The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Burial,[1] has quietly become a winning strategy for talented artists. It effectively lets the music stand on its merit while harvesting a deep, genuine intrigue for the artist’s brand that money could never buy. What we do know is that dvsn is affiliated with known OVO producer Nineteen85, who architected “Hotline Bling” (!) and “Hold On We’re Going Home” (!!) – so there’s that.

dvsn does so much right. Each of his songs thus far creates a distinct setting that is so confident in its theme and voice. There is such command over the higher level structure of the composition that a song can go so many different places, change tempos, and strip down layers so effectively before you hit the track’s halfway mark. Instrumentally, the tracks themselves are crafted with so much care for what all the pieces sound like together. There is never a reliance upon any one element (ie. percussion, keyboard riff). Instead, there are multiple layers, uniquely engineered sounds (from vocal samples to keyboards), and carefully placed hits that are sublimely sparse enough to let the vocals shine through while still keeping the tracks moving.

 

Admittedly, the crux, or thesis, of this article isn’t overly earth-shattering: simply put, I want you to want to listen to dvsn. To be clear, this is very different from me just wanting you to listen to a four-letter Canadian artist – instead, I think that if you appreciate music on any level, whether it be technical, aesthetic or whatever, you owe it to yourself to indulge in everything right about music’s craft in 2015.

[1] Not a comparison :)

– Vasanth

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