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Fabiana Palladino’s self-titled debut is a sleek entry for a unique new voice

"Fabiana Palladino"

Release date: 05 April 2024
Fabiana Palladino Fabiana Palladino cover
04 April 2024, 12:00 Written by Sam Franzini

It’s been a long time coming for the Lorde-approved Fabiana Palladino.

After being scooped by visionary producer Jai Paul when she began sharing demos online, she released a stream of enigmatic singles before signing with XL Recordings / The Paul Institute in March 2020. Each song held its own, and a planned EP was scrapped, but all came together for her self-titled debut, Fabiana Palladino, a chic and elegant collection of updated future-retro pop and R&B tracks.

Fabiana Palladino, with an austere cover art reminiscent of a Fanch Ledan painting, is warmer than it suggests. The album’s first cut, “I Care,” featuring Jai Paul, repeats its title over and over in a swirl of voices, pleading a lover to match the narrator’s energy. “What do I do to make you really care?” she sings, stretching out her words, the feeling lingering far after the song ends. Opener “Closer” exists in the same space, a dreamy cloud with a lax 90s R&B beat that highlights her vocals. The album closer “Forever” is the record’s only ballad, a wistful send-off that just straddles the corniness line – luckily for Palladino, she never reaches “My Heart Will Go On” levels of maximalist emotional belting.

The record’s R&B tracks are maybe its most hypnotic, but Fabiana Palladino never skimps on the fun. Inspired by people like Chaka Khan, there are groovy, soulful cuts where Palladino feels vocally free, like on the longing “Stay With Me Through The Night.” Delightfully segmented and heavy-hitting, she asks to make it right with a partner: “Give me one more night / I wanna keep you satisfied.” Another retro cut is “Shoulda,” a sendoff to someone she should have abandoned long ago. “I guess I really am the type to talk about matters of the heart, to anyone who will listen to me,” she sings, either a reference to real-life chat with friends, inspiration for music, or both.

There’s a sort of regalness to Fabiana Palladino, stemming from its ultra-streamlined, hyper-meticulous level of production. Each instrument is in its right place, and the result is a fluid, mesmerizing record. There’s the windy, dramatic singles like “I Can’t Dream Anymore” and “I Care” that lend to this effect, but there’s still plenty of room for experimentation, or areas where it feels like she’s moving out of her lines. Its best case, “Can You Look In The Mirror?” is a Britney Spears-lite jam about knowing your own worth on the dancefloor – “Can you see the light? / And face up to reality? / Stand and look me in the eye / Don’t you play with me, boy” goes the album’s most direct lyricism. Palladino sells this persona halfway; she’s much more confident on the record’s grander tracks. But there’s also “Deeper,” an electro-infused sex signal, and “In The Fire,” a wonky, stunted track that serves as the album’s only miss, though it has some good ideas.

Palladino’s debut is self-assured, but that’s to be expected when one’s at work on it for so long. There’s no doubt the years of study, practice, and writing did her good – Fabiana Palladino is a near-effortless reinvention of retro pop, soul, funk, and R&B tracks with a glossy modern sheen, setting the stage for more grandiose statements in the future.

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