James Reid gets groovy and funky with a refreshing new single, Soda
As someone who’s weaned off of drinking soda over the years, I’ve since found my occasional reunions with it almost nostalgic, recalling scenes of walking to the neighborhood sari-sari store following an afternoon out with friends in the park, buying Clover Chips, and drinking Sarsi out of a clear plastic bag with a colored straw—moments of reprieve from sweltering Manila summers. That’s how James Reid’s new single Soda makes me feel (and it’s not even summer yet!).
While 2017’s Palm Dreams also had that distinct tropical summer vibe, it was perhaps built to quench a different kind of thirst entirely. Comprised of moody R&B/hip hop tracks laid down with mostly trap beats and lyrics about living the life and the spells new lovers cast on each other, it was a remarkable feat for someone trying to move away from that manufactured matinee idol reputation. There was something high-and-mighty about it, granted the Careless co-founder was exploring new terrain at the time and just starting to gain full creative control of his music. Three years later, Reid has come back a little more grounded and self-aware with Soda, a song about riding the waves.
Apart from the can-opening drink-pouring ASMR that kicks off the track, there’s no direct reference to sodas, but it’s just as fizzy and refreshing anyway. The Daft Punk influence permeates the entire song from the wah-wah guitars to the funky staccato bass, from the vocoder effects to the outro progression. It’s a new sound for Reid. However, it's one he’s gravitated towards throughout his teenage years, the French duo’s Discovery even being the only poster hung up in his room. He says at a recent press con, “That electro funk feel is something I’ve always wanted to do. This is the sound I’ve always wanted to experiment and play around with.”
We already got hints of soul and funk with his 2019 singles and collaborations Soul Love, Mandaue Nights, and Healing, but Soda seems the most rooted to him, one he wrote and produced himself with a little help from fellow Careless artists Nadine Lustre and Massiah, alongside producer Isagani Palabyab.
Just as we’re easing into that first verse groove, Reid enters the line “out of control / that’s the way I like it / unpredictable” with an unexpected high note so early in the song. With vocals oft-compared to The Weeknd’s, that's not a bad thing. While rampant thumps and trap beats restricted his vocal movements in Palm Dreams, Soda and its penchant for fluidity (both sound-wise and lyrics-wise) lets Reid’s vocals flow with a lot more ease.
A lot of Reid’s earlier songwriting merely scratched the surfaces of love, sex, and the high life and did a lot more telling than showing, but with Soda there’s more space to look inward and even impart a little wisdom: “It’s not a straight line / It’s all a part of the ride / Can we take time / Don’t lose the stars in your eyes.” Sure, it’s still trite, but it doesn’t have to try too hard either. Sometimes we just need a little reminder that progress isn’t linear, especially now that we’re all still stuck in this collective funk.
While Daft Punk’s Something About Us revels in its wistfulness, Soda thrives with a confident optimism that’s hard to come by these days. I realized there’s no specific term for that “AHH” sound we make after gulping an ice-cold beverage. A sigh of relief or a mere exhale doesn’t quite cut it, but the feeling of consolation rings true, and that’s exactly the kind of comfort we can get from a song like this one.
Because Soda is a standalone single, it’s still too early to tell what kind of James Reid era we’re entering, but if this is the springboard for future material, we’re sure in for an easy coastal ride. Reid says there’s a lot in store for Careless in the first quarter of the year, including more video content for Soda, Nadine’s online concert, Massiah’s new album, and a new artist introduction in their roster. Best believe we’ll keep our eyes and ears peeled for yet another unprecedented year in local music.
RELATED: New Albums to Watch Out For in 2021
Soda, James Reid’s first solo release in three years, is available for your listening pleasure on all major music streaming platforms. Give it a listen here.
Words Bea Mata
Art Alexandra Lara