Published Oct 20, 2018So that happened. One kind of knew what to expect when the Red Bull Music Festival Toronto announced that dvsn would collaborate with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. What actually happened set a new level of expectations for what a Canadian R&B act can achieve in this country. The OVO Sound duo — singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85 — have been both a force and curiosity since September 5, 2015, the day they released singles "The Line" and "With Me."
Over two albums — 2016's Sept. 5th and the following year's Morning After — the pair have fashioned a sound that deconstructs and illuminates modern soul influences for a post-Drake era. Shoutout to the select members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra who collaborated with the group and expertly delivered reworkings of Jay-Z's "Song Cry," Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River," and Kate Bush's (by way of Maxwell) "This Woman's Work."
Having Daniel Daley strut across the venerable Roy Thomson Hall stage, in front of an orchestra and backing choir, felt like the culmination of genre potential actualized: hearing dvsn cuts like a charged-up "Too Deep" (that slipped in Ginuwine's "So Anxious"), a souled-out "Nuh Time/Tek Time," the leveraged Isaac Hayes sample of "Don't Choose," with standout vocal power via the choir.
A stripped-down piano version of "Body Smile" showcased versatility and a rousing, on your feet rendition of breakout track "Hallucinations" showed how far the group have come. The blend between the symphonic and pre-recorded parts worked to stay in synch: the orchestra segment was sonically satisfying, Daley's vocals sounded stronger than ever and a tuxedoed Nineteen85 kept things moving on an elite level.
R&B, in Canada, is finally in a space where it is fully respected, fully realized and the gatekeeper barriers to entry — that curtailed the success of our soul singers of the past — are easier to bypass.
"Toronto! We did this for you," Daley said at the end. Indeed, dvsn did the damn thing.