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Sudan Archives revels in creative eclecticism throughout Natural Brown Prom Queen

"Natural Brown Prom Queen"

Release date: 09 September 2022
Sudan archive nbpq art
07 September 2022, 00:00 Written by John Amen

With Natural Brown Prom Queen, Brittney Denise Parks, a.k.a. Sudan Archives, blends the explorative tone of her 2017 and 2018 EPs – a talented artist honing her MO – and the mainstream charisma of her debut LP, 2019’s Athena. The result is a sprawling yet cogently diverse set, what might be described as a fete of creativity and strategic maximalism.

Opener “Home Maker,” for example, shows Parks transitioning from an avant/ambient jazz intro (reverb-dabbed horns and sharp snare beats) to a funk-inflected R&B groove. Facilitating radical pivots and segues unprecedented in earlier work, Parks offers a supple and well-nuanced vocal, conjuring a moody Beyoncé.

“I’m not average,” Parks insists on the title song. Bolstered by bouncy synths and manic beats, along with a classically toned bridge that would get a grin from Brian Wilson, Parks shifts between self-glorification and hurling shade at those who get conned by player types. “Copycat,” meanwhile, points to Parks’ affinity for the hip-hop playbook, her smooth sprechstimme unfolding amidst a welter of synthy dashes and spry beats.

The album’s most memorable chorus unfurls in “Freakalizer,” Parks’ vocal fusing the chic house-party vibe of FKA Twigs’ Caprisongs and the more mercurial intonations of Rihanna circa Anti. “ChevyS10” is a percussive foray that similarly puts Parks’ vocal skills on center stage, the singer providing dynamic and interwoven lead, back-up, and harmony parts.

“Homesick (“Gorgeous & Arrogant)” features Parks as she navigates a mix of loungey horns and noirish synths. As the piece progresses, however, it veers toward a darkwave gestalt, echoey beats merging with sonorous bass notes. In this way, Parks again demonstrates her ability to maneuver various stylistic shifts.

Over Natural Brown Prom Queen’s 53 minutes and 18 tracks, the Cincinnati-born Parks displays her compositional skills, penchant for winning melodies, and versatility as a performer. Most strikingly, the set documents Parks as she integrates myriad approaches, balancing discipline and the hedonistic impulse.

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