Every so often, life throws us a curveball.
Sometimes, life throws us so many curveballs that trying to catch them all feels near on impossible. As Nao discovers on Saturn, the universe shaking us off the path we’ve been so comfortable walking can actually be the biggest cosmic blessing of all.
Her second album comes a result of the events of her life prior to writing it, events which can seemingly be explained by the theory that every thirty years or so, when Saturn returns to the position it occupied at the moment of your birth, you experience a shift: a time of change or a new phase of adulthood. A powerful documentation of letting relationships, jobs and regrets go, Saturn is an emotional journey through struggle and empowerment, through loss and rebirth.
The album’s powerful standout single “Make It Out Alive” vocalises the numbness that floods through you when everything seems to be falling apart; when all you can do is sit back and watch it burn. The only option is to start afresh and rebuild. “If You Ever” begins that journey, inhabiting a modest dance-inspired beat which feels like an entirely natural progression from 2016’s For All We Know. Nao’s incredible vocal range that floored us on the likes of “Bad Blood” comes to the forefront again on the heart-wrenching “Another Lifetime”.
On “Orbit”, the track which almost feels like the album’s centre of gravity, she plays with both the tenderness and confidence in her voice, as a balance of both the light and shade that life often comes paired with. Saturn spans styles and genres, blending soulful R&B with hints of funk and dance with ease, releasing moments of optimism such as those on “Love Supreme”: “…floating away with change, humble at every stage / I know we gon’ be alright, cos we’ll make it to a love supreme”.
It’s a work that’s in a constant state of flux, the flow giving and yielding just like our emotions. A sense of healing and growth radiates from it, with the sparkling pop feel of “Yellow of the Sun” bringing the album round to a complete and circular ending. It’s not just the ethereal space theme holding Saturn together, but the brighter future that emerges through finding yourself again and coming out of the other side of hardship.