“Am I tripping for having a vision? / My prediction – I’mma be on top of the world.” There’s nothing wrong with “having a vision” – ambition is always a pro. Give it up to Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz, who bring a unique fusion of styles to the musical table on their debut album, Black Star Elephant. Arguably best categorized as pop musicians, Nico & Vinz incorporate dashes of African music, hip-hop, and R&B. Ultimately, Black Star Elephant proves to be a pleasant, uplifting album, though by no means earth shattering.
For better or worse, Black Star Elephant is an interlude-heavy effort. Sometimes this works, while other times there’s the sense that Nico & Vinz could’ve nixed a couple and lost little to nothing. There’s no shame in the brief “Intro” which sensationally shares the beauty of world music – specifically via Africa – but with such frequency, the interludes grows old without necessarily accentuating or invigorating the effort. Arguably, the question could be posed, why not blend the interludes into proceeding track – Merely a thought – not the focal point of the album.
The clear centerpiece of Black Star Elephant is high-flying, über-catchy single “Am I Wrong”, of which the opening lyric hails. A knockout opening statement, “Am I Wrong” establishes the tone, delivering a tour de force that’s quite philosophical and prudent in theme. Among wise words offered are “Walk your walk and don’t look back / Always do what you decide / Don’t let them control your life”. Even ahead of such sound advice, the duo questions others’ judgments – “Am I wrong for thinking out of the box from where I stay?” Ornate with its rhythmic groove, brilliant horns, and this persona of exuberance in spite of being ‘in a minor key’, “Am I Wrong” goes unmatched, arguably the biggest flaw of Black Star Elephant.
‘Don’t get it twisted’, Black Star Elephant has some terrific moments, though they often impact less profoundly following the ‘worldwide smash’. It’s difficult to defeat number one – the juggernaut – and Nico & Vinz never supplant their ‘ace in the hole’. Still “Last Time” is a sound, enjoyable follow-up, like “Am I Wrong” benefiting from its hyper-percussive groove and overall enthusiastic tone. Nico & Vinz never over perform, hence delivering vocally with a cool, chill vibe that exemplifies winning. Again, there is a level of respect that is the rare find in a majority of pop music, hailing by way of lyric “but I’m drowning in your sea and I don’t want nobody to save me”. Given the grand sense of genuineness of which Nico & Vinz deliver, the authenticity never seems disputable.
Other bright spots include the uplifting “Know What I’m Not”, a track of introspection that establishes and confirms the importance of the individual being true to themselves and not what others would have them to be. “People” embraces a socially conscious tone. Playing to their incredibly positive viewpoint of life, the duo come to the simple, yet notable realization that “People will always be people to me / Yeah, we do wrong we do right… cause people will always be people to me.”
Even as Nico & Vinz fail to match the surefire hit, they always have something positive to share. On “Miracles”, the duo dispels the far-fetched connotation of the word in favor of hard work and the more feasible, attainable desire to be victorious (“The fire’s within your soul”). “Another Day” goes by certainly doesn’t carry the torch for the album, but does convey the tried-and-true message, “Another day goes by, another day goes by / And I thank God that I’m alive.” The sermon continues on “Imagine”: “I’m just a humble, little sailor with too much to prove / But my boat’s so small and the ocean so huge…so I need you to be part of my team… Without you where would I be? Imagine.”
All in all, Black Star Elephant seems accomplishes its goals – delivering an album that thrives off its ‘good vibes’. There is no denying that Nico & Vinz better their listeners by eschewing negativity, not to mention avoiding profanity for the most part. That said, sometimes so much positivity grows ever too schmaltzy and a bit blasé. While it’s a ‘sinful’ observation, but at times the album wouldn’t hurt from a little extra ‘oomph’ (The lyric “Every damn day” from “Homeless” feels almost uncharacteristic given it infrequency). Regardless, Nico & Vinz seems to be “Runnin’” on the right path, ranking as truly upstanding people without question.