Daniel Caesar's CASE STUDY 1 hit streaming services at midnight, and it feels designed for that time of night, tailor-made to be listened to during a bout of insomnia until the first hints of sun.
Caesar is an expert at crafting dreamlike, ethereal, and slow-burning R&B, and his latest album is a continuation of what made him famous: bass-heavy songs that are sad and sexy at the same time, full of tremolo-laden guitar and multifaceted lyrics that often shapeshift each time you listen to them.
The album's first track, "Entropy," wastes no time in getting into the thick of Caesar's thematic territory. "I remember the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita," begins the song. "Vishnu was trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty, and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form, and says, 'Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.'"
Following that, the song collapses into a sultry beat while Caesar sings, "I finally found peace / just how long till she strip for me?" What follows is a meandering spiritual monologue that's as much of an ode to sex as it is to God. It often blurs the line between the two, removing the boundaries between art, love, and spirituality and brewing them together.
The result is a spiral of longing—for connection, for the past, for a different kind of future. Nostalgia runs the show on "Restore the Feeling," a simultaneously laid-back and intricate track which features Jacob Collier and Sean Leon. "Superposition," featuring John Mayer, is a delicate, folky ballad to existential questioning. "Isn't it an irony, the things that inspire me / they make me bleed / so profusely," Caesar begins. "Life's all about contradiction / yin and yang fluidity and things. I'm me, I'm God, I'm everything, I'm my own reason why I sing, and so are you."
Image via DIG MAG
It's an incantation, a hymn for a world where fame and success are lauded as the end goal of the human experience—often to the detriment of the famous, when they discover that notoriety can't fill any internal void. "This music shit's a piece of cake," sings Caesar. "The rest of my life's in a state of chaos." His music seems suspended in time, located in a universe that's completely detached from the messiness of human life, so it's easy to see how the transition between his world and the real one could be jarring.
Emerging from CASE STUDY 1 feels like coming out of a dream. Listening to it is not necessarily going to make the real world any easier, but it offers an oblivion that can be clutched like a crucifix or a lover's hand when reality gets old.