Some would attribute the melding of hip-hop and R&B into today’s dominant party music to producer Teddy Riley’s new jack swing. Despite Riley being its pioneer, others would argue the great figure of such melding—or welding, maybe—is producer Dallas Austin, who worked extensively with TLC. Syd, frontwoman and mastermind behind The Internet, taps into this same spirit with her solo debut Fin, bringing better lyrics to the fold, resulting in what could be one of the strongest albums in the legacy of the hybridized genre.
Fin confidently reinvents a music made for bumping and grooving with a lyrical prowess that burns slowly, confessionally, as if a descendant of James Baldwin’s autobiographical and sometimes erotic writing, like Giovanni’s Room; “Dollar Bills” may be the most literate way of singing about striptease in the history of R&B. “All About Me” is Syd singing bars about herself, like a rapper would spit them. Meanwhile, the entrancing, synth-powered groove of “Shake Em Off” and “Body” are a showcase for her phenomenal falsetto.
As great of producers as Teddy Riley and Dallas Austin were, the songs they produced (TLC’s “Automatic,” say, or “Cross the Room” by Monica) made sure to keep their lyrics simple and straightforward to keep the focus on the vibe. Perhaps because she’s a songwriter by trade in addition to being a producer, with Fin, Syd has proven herself to be an auteur.