Alina Baraz takes the wheel in long-awaited debut album ‘It Was Divine’

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

After years of releasing promising EPs such as Urban Flora and The Color of You, Los Angeles-based R&B artist Alina Baraz has finally released her debut studio album, It Was Divine — and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. Baraz, known for her golden, silky-smooth voice, showcases the full range of her vocals throughout the album and branches out into new territory, delivering breezy melodies paired with full-bodied, dreamy ballads. 

It Was Divine begins on a note of infatuation with “My Whole Life.” Baraz starts the song off by intoning, “Is it me, is my intuition wrong?/ Or does it feel like coming home?” in a heartfelt declaration of love. The instrumentals are initially minimalistic, with a sentimental acoustic guitar chord complementing the soft vocals. Eventually, the song opens up as Baraz delivers the lyric, “I could see my whole life when I’m with you,” and a booming bass enters the soundscape. The song then becomes a slow dance, brilliantly balancing R&B beats with peaceful guitar strumming and cinematic synth elements. “My Whole Life” fades out as Baraz hums and the atmosphere shifts. 

“Morocco” seamlessly picks up where “My Whole Life” leaves off, matching the darker ambiance of the synth at the end of the first track. A resonant hip-hop beat characterizes the song, creating a James Bond-esque atmosphere as Baraz and featured artist 6LACK harmonize and sing of their escapades through Morocco. “Morocco” is raunchier than the rest of the album, with Baraz projecting the ego of a luxurious femme fatale as she sings, “My favorite view/ Is me covered in you/ Nothing but my perfume.” 6LACK and Baraz communicate a tangible sexual tension and bounce off each other’s energies as they switch on and off verses. 

  An electronic drone and resonant organlike synth effects introduce Baraz into “Endlessly,” before the grittier instrumentals make way for an R&B-style melody to kick in. Baraz begins the song on the lower register of her vocals, saying, “Show me where nobody goes/ I’m lost in your kaleidoscope/ I keep getting visions when you coming close.” As she sings through the pre-chorus, her notes gradually ascend until she floats airily, singing “Endlessly.” The chorus repeats with “Endlessly/ You and me,” creating a dreamy effect. The track seems at first to be the most similar to Baraz’s previous work, but as the melody fades off, the song takes an unexpected turn. As Baraz sings, “Call me when you get home/ Call me when you’re alone,” the synth slows down like a record unwinding, devolving into a heavily reverberated loop. 

As one of the most promising songs off the album, “Gimme the Wheel” has a firmly confident tone and, like “Morocco,” relies heavily on hip-hop elements. Backed by funky synth inflections, Baraz exudes sensuality and control as she urges her lover to stay over and rest their uneasiness with her. This track in particular marks a definitive shift in her self-presentation as an artist: Baraz makes it evident that she is no longer just a dreamy fantasy, but rather a powerfully magnetic force. She also gives a playful nod to fellow R&B artist Frank Ocean when she says, “Maybe we’ll listen to Frank.” The outro devolves into distorted synths and fading vocals, leaving a haunting effect. 

“Until I Met You” is a velvety-smooth track with prominent R&B drums and subtle guitar inflections. The various layers of sound culminate into a dramatic, show-stopping melody. Fingers snapping in the background amplify the song’s old-time cinema noir feeling while still maintaining its glossy modernity. Baraz’s slightly smoky vocals add a sensual element to the track as Nas raps with ease and finesse. The harmonious dichotomy between the two artists reflects the dynamic of a love built through a mixture of excitement and maturity, as their two energies combine effortlessly. 

Baraz’s official debut into the recording world is a resounding success, and her debut album proves that she is an artist with plenty of creativity, talent and charm. With It Was Divine, Baraz has found her voice as an artist and will hopefully only continue to develop it in even more promising directions. 

Contact Luna Khalil at [email protected].