NAO – “In the Morning” (Singles Going Steady)

Over spacious, off-center beats, NAO creates a lush, lunar atmosphere for her powerful, intimate lyrics.

Paul Carr: Breaking up is hard to do, but for NAO it is the only way to spare a lover from the pain of a failing relationship. Over spacious, off-center beats, NAO creates a lush, lunar atmosphere for her powerful, intimate lyrics. She sounds torn, filled with self-doubt but her hesitancy slowly gives way to the cold hard realization of the inevitable. In this way, it feels like peeking into her diary as she wrestles with her decision. “In the Morning” is a thoughtful exploration of the fragility of relationships. [8/10]

Andrew Paschal: These are always the worst kinds of breakups, aren’t they? On this cut from last year’s For All We Know, Neo Jessica Joshua does justice to the misery of leaving a devoted lover with whom you’ve nonetheless fallen out of love. Twitching fits of anxious, contorted moans undergird Joshua’s unique and soulful vocals, over a beat that keeps the track moving forward with an urgency beyond self-pity. “In the Morning” captures a psychological moment that, in real time, could just as easily span a few seconds or a few hours. Joshua’s dismay is total, but her sturdy resolve comes through most clearly of all. [7/10]

Mike Schiller: NAO’s latest is a slow-burn in every sense. It takes a while to get off the ground, all menacing synths pushed to the background and conflicted words on the way to a painful morning after, but by the end, the ever-building beat is exploding into noise, and presumably the conflicted thoughts have turned to violent action. The video is just as painful, as we see a visual manifestation of the pain caused by the pushing away of NAO’s suitor. It’s tough to watch but awfully rewarding. [7/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: NAO has a singular ability to sound simultaneously delicate and powerful. On “In the Morning”, she demonstrates this, maximizing both aspects of her voice and creating a tremendous emotional impact. She performs rather than sings, telling a whole story with both the content and the style of her words, sounding tormented, broken, tearful. The production isn’t quite as pitch-perfect, with overheating synths threatening to drown out the vocals that make this song resonate so well. In spite of the noise, NAO’s soulful delivery wins out, in the end, rising and falling with artful precision. [7/10]

Chris Ingalls: On the surface, it’s an almost deceptively pop/R&B song, but the contemporary production touches are amazing and give the song an additional boost. Like a lot of NAO’s music, it has an urgent, anthemic feel. And then there’s that voice. [8/10]

Steve Horowitz: NAO’s voice possesses an ethereal quality that floats above the song’s atmospherics to create something tender even when the lyrics suggest she’s being cruel. The musical accompaniment suffers from too much noise. This would work better as an acapella track. NAO’s presence can get lost in the mix when it is the best thing here. Let her sing! [7/10]

SCORE: 7.34