Created amidst the numerous lockdowns, Nao has evolved from the exquisite, chaotic despair of Mercury prize and Grammy-nominated album Saturn and found clarity and bliss in third album And Then Life Was Beautiful. Her unique tone continues to radiate from track to track, gliding in layers over comparatively lightweight electronic production – a marked difference from her previous two records.
Pandemic year was a seemingly busy one for Nao (Neo Joshua) who not only birthed an entire human being, but also managed to write and produce a 13-track record fit to guide listeners through life’s ups and downs. Themes of joy and acceptance effervesce throughout the album – the Lianne La Havas collaboration “Woman” is a celebratory gem that gravitates back into the NAO-coined ‘wonky funk’ territory. “Good Luck” featuring Lucky Daye is a punchy number that celebrates self-worth and bids well wishes to those undeserving of your love.
“Wait” may be one of the greatest ballads to emerge off the back of 2020 entirely – it teems with emotional maturity and understanding. Building over piano and violin, Nao rides the emotional lows of a relationship and implores us to hold on - “Maybe we should stay / I know that it’s worth it if we stay / the only way to feel it is to break / trying to run away is only human / but if we stay then we might make it home”.
The opening phrases of “Glad That You’re Gone” tease vocal layer upon layer, but ultimately the track reflects a sense of peace and acceptance in allowing a person to depart from your life to make space for those who can build you up and add value.
“Life isn’t perfect; we still go through ups and downs, but it can be beautiful as a whole. I do think it’s a hopeful album, in an honest way – it’s not shiny or all ‘isn’t this great!’ and ‘party party party.’ But it’s hopeful in that through every rough patch, every dark patch or struggle we always come out again. That’s what life is. You keep going. But most of all you try and step into a place of gratitude so that you can see life in all of its beauty.”