So here we go with Future Flavours #2: XO, now before we get onto this truly awesome producer a quick bit of music news.
When does longevity become desperation? Well I would say look no further than Madonna who is set to release a single featuring a bevy of ‘young’ global female singing sensations (rather like Taylor Swift). Her cheesily named latest single Bitch I’m Madonna (yawn yawn we are aware) features among others Rita Ora. In terms of the artists featuring I feel there is no issue but for Madonna it’s like your mum talking to your friends having borrowed your clothing wearing your see through dress and a thong on-STOP that! I have no issue with her continuing it’s just that she seems to be hanging on in desperation with the vice like grip of a 10th dan ninja to youth when the facts are the ‘youth’ are always going to do ‘young’ better than her-maybe she should get XO to produce a beat for her to bring her up to the times, (tenuous link I know).
So who is XO well firstly if XO was a mafia boss he would be the boss of bosses batting unsuspecting thugs with a baseball bat in the back of their head because they did not cook his cannelloni well?
XO’s appearance on the music scene almost seems sudden having only really come to notice in 2013 with a string of material that caught the attention of one Huw Stephens-check out XO’s reworking of Golden by that neo soul queen Jill Scott.
The Staffordshire based producer Sunil Heera (government name) certainly at the time the time of the aforementioned release, brought a production that defied the fact that when he dropped Golden he was still only 18. Fusing 90’s rnb and ukg sensibilities is not a new thing of course but XO certainly then showed a flair for creating the good vibes and energy of that time while of course still managing to keep it contemporary-(note XO even uses some old skool rave beats as well in Golden). Off the back of the acclaim he actually played Radio 1 Introducing Stage check out the footage.
It was of course no surprise that someone with that alchemist like ability to meld so many different influences in a seamless magical fashion caught the attention of more and more music tastemakers. After whetting the appetites with some telling cuts, in 2013 he dropped his first ep HLYN001 vindicating every last ounce of hype and damn there were only two tracks on it!
His first ep introduced that rnb, ukg sound in a more pronounced fashion while showing his astute acumen at choosing just the right vocal collaborations to bring his musical vision. The opening cut, Through The Night features the infinitely neo soul sounding Rob Law while XO lays down some funky beat with flushes of disco in there.
In a direct opposite the second track sees something more dance orientated bringing in a house vibe with Pulling Me Under featuring Leo Kaylan. This was one of the biggest dance tracks for 2014 without the need for a Calvin Harris long intro build up (full respect to Calvin Harris by the way) with that distinctive hook by Leo. If I said I liked that first ep it would be an underestimation it would be like saying I like having feet.
Some publications have called him the future of dance music I think that is limiting because he clearly loves a good bit of neo soul, rnb and I am sure more influences-personally I think he is just a producer who is pushing his production in this direction for now.
Personal opinion aside, after such a telling introductory ep how does XO follow-up? Well of course he goes in like a dentist with a vendetta against a patient who short changed him but forgot and has just come in for two root canal procedures, ‘this might hurt!’
His second ep The Ethereal Experience is well a statement of fact I expect because indeed it’s just that. The first release off this four track bit of freshness was Flames Of Phoenix which has a beat that kind of reminded me of that Jon B classic Don’t Talk taken off his third album Pleasures You Like (2001). Regardless, it was a bullish return by XO who lays on lashings of funkiness while of course insuring that the track is so damn cool.
The latest release from the ep will surely mean that XO will be the subject of further compliments-let’s not forget that this second track was premiered by none other than Annie Mac-tidy.
U&I fulfils all the tenets for a bonafide club classic and I love every single second of this productive bit of brilliance. Here, XO enlists the vocally on point Shay Lia-she is the clichéd cherry on top to a very very sweet treat! It bangs with gusto, resonates with essence and has summer anthem written all over it.
What I feel XO has done which I am sure is not as premeditated as I might make it sound is position his sound as definitely UK but most certainly global particularly appealing to the US. Production like this firmly plants him in the arena of some very bonafide artists from here like;Jessie Ware, Sinead Harnett and the US like Maxwell and Miguel.
As long as XO is allowed to create without the pressures of some over-zealous label then he can create with freedom as people cotton onto him and require his services. XO will be the new productive formula that everyone needs to complete that old age musical problem: ‘I need a hit!’
TRACK LISTING: Flames Of A Phoenix/ U & I (feat Shay Lia)/Somethin’ About U/The Light