Rhye Starts His Pop Pivot on 'Home'
Published Jan 18, 2021Before Rhye emerged from a haze of identity-obscuring mystery, it seemed like that voice could have belonged to anyone. The project's sensuous, mellifluous driving force, now long-known to be Canadian musician Michael Milosh, eschewed traditional markers of gender and identity — no matter your preferences, if there's anything you find sexy, there's a good chance you could be entranced by Rhye's seductive R&B.
But even the best sex loses its spark if there's nothing to spice it up. Despite a lineup shift between Rhye's 2013 breakthrough debut, Woman, and 2018 follow-up, Blood, the albums covered similar ground, while 2019's Spirit — a collection of piano ballads — brought a different compositional approach to similar conclusions. While the records succeeded on the prettiness of Milosh's voice and arrangements, they didn't push the project's peak any further than Woman's undeniable one-two opening punch of "Open" and "The Fall," Rhye's calling cards since the project's inception.
Home starts to move things into a bolder, brighter new direction thanks to a new pair of hits. "Come in Closer" and "Safeword" elevate Milosh's tried-and-true formula, the former featuring a four-on-the-floor beat that drives the synth- and string-driven palette, the latter accented by soft Spanish guitars and flute-like synths before cascading into a soft, vulnerable outro as Milosh pleads the listener to "be careful with me."
The album's strongest moments are filled with the kind of expansive, hi-fi orchestral pop production that is just begging to be sampled by Jens Lekman, anchoring Milosh's weightless voice with hooky instrumentals, like the chintzy horns on "Hold You Down" and the disco strings on "Black Rain." Other moments are less captivating, either falling into the same lovelorn haze of previous releases, like "Helpless" and "Sweetest Revenge," or succumbing to the ether entirely, like the finger-picked plod of "Need a Love" and repetitive groove of "Holy."
While Home lacks the consistency of previous records, it makes a strong case for Rhye as a pop star waiting in the wings, à la the Weeknd, thanks to a voice versatile enough to complement any instrumental choice. Four albums in, Rhye has finally begun to branch out, and not a moment too soon. (Last Gang)