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Professional Demo Review - June 7th, 2010

- “The track suffers from being too dynamically linear; the differences between the verses and chorus are not distinct enough“

- “Artists like her need to go back to being entertainers. Her being able to play instruments presents a great opportunity to put on a fantastic show”

- “If you’re going to be soulful and distinct, you’ve got to go back and study the top artists”

picture R&B is back and to celebrate its renaissance, the Professional Demo Review tunes into three promising cuts by three unsigned R&B and soul artists. Ready to assess whether songs by Eliza Smith, Deeyana and Kendra Granville manage to touch the soul are producer and songwriter Mathieu Karsenti, manager, publisher and all round entrepreneur Myron ‘Ron’ Campbell, and top pop producer Andrew Lane.

In reaching their conclusions the reviewers consider factors such as vocals, production, composition and visual presentation, while also providing tips on improving the tracks, and evaluating their overall potential to get a record deal and achieve chart success …

The Artists

HitQuarters ArtistEliza Smith

Vancouver’s own Eliza Smith is currently hard at work on her new album ‘The One’ with songwriters Jenson Vaughn, Craig Smart, Aileen De La Cruz, and the Chapter 2 Production team. She is available for record and publishing deals.

Born on New Year’s Eve, 1985, Eliza has been singing since the tender age of three and began performing publicly when she was only 14. Music is clearly in her blood. In fact she claims that without it she wouldn’t be the fiercely motivated person she is today.

HitQuarters ArtistDeeyana

Singer, songwriter and saxophonist Deeyana is from Serbia, living in London and currently recording in Florida, together with producer Vada Nobles (Rihanna, Lauryn Hill). A rare multi-instrumentalist, with a 4-octave range, Deeyana is opening for Will Young's UK tour and is available for record and management deals.

Her teenage years were spent in Belgrade, Serbia, a country torn apart by a decade-long conflict. Like many, she lost close friends and relatives in the wars. These experiences are often reflected in her philosophical lyrics.

HitQuarters ArtistKendra Granville

Hailing from deepest Brooklyn, 23-year-old singer, rapper, songwriter and musician Kendra Granville exhibits a distinct voice and a soulful vibe on her self-written material. This multi-talented R&B/hip-hop artist is available for record and management deals.

Now in college, this diva is taking her singing and writing even more seriously. When she’s not in the lecture hall, she invariably be in the studio, writing and recording songs. She’s promoting these new cuts – which can be heard on her debut CD ‘Patience Of A Woman’ - at regular concerts, music showcases and open mic sessions in Manhattan, Long Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania nightclubs.

The Industry Professional Review Panel

Mathieu Karsenti – UK – Songwriting and Production

Soulem productions is the work of Mathieu Karsenti, a London UK-based modern soul producer, songwriter and composer.

Soulem is all about ‘bringing the Soul back’ into modern music by producing and arranging the music around the artist. It aims at supporting originality, developing and nurturing talent and it acts as a Soulful signature sound to the artist’s vision.

Soulem has worked with up-and-coming as well as established artists in the soulful genres such as modern soul, soulful R&B, conscious hip-hop, Modern jazz and world music.

Myron ‘Ron’ Campbell - USA – Management/Publishing

Ron Campbell is CEO of Daville Entertainment, a multifaceted company specialising in management, publishing (Villetown Publishing BMI), marketing/consulting and entertainment.

Through Daville Management, the organisation manages and oversees the careers of recording artists, producers, writers, entertainers, and athletes and through Daville Films, it is also involved with television and film projects. Its current clients include Queenz, Justin ‘Elliskeyz’ Elli, NEFEW, Oyola Beats and Swagbeatz.

“We are always looking for new talent so please hit us up. Our goal and commitment are to approach every project, whether big or small, with the same drive and tenacity".

Andrew Lane – USA – Producer

Known in industry circles as "Drew", Andrew Lane has worked with some of the industry's hottest superstars such as Dave Hollister, T-boz, Killa Mike, Chyna White, Backstreet Boys, Trillville, Young Bloods, & Dogmatic of the 8 Mile Shady Family and Irene Cara.

As producer/songwriter, he has received gold, platinum sales for his work with R&B mega-artists, Speech, Keith Sweat, Alosu, and on platinum selling records High School Musical/Hannah Montana/Disneymania 4/Manny Fresh. Andrew Lane has a number of singles coming out this year on acts worldwide.

* * *

Song 1:
Click here to listen to Eliza Smith - Something About You

Mathieu Karsenti – 8

“From the opening bars, Eliza’s distinctive voice is inviting and promises success - it’s honest, warm and noticeable.

However, the track suffers from being too dynamically linear; the differences between the verses and chorus are not distinct enough. The production is nice and solid but the use of a sample throughout could give way to greater musical variations that would better support her voice and help make the track ‘take off’. The chorus hook should be strengthened musically and supported with more harmonies to make it more commercial.

Nevertheless, the song is still not too far from being perfect. It has a good, positive commercial appeal and would play well on radio.”

Ron Campbell – 8.5

“Eliza definitely is on to something with this record. Great sample and she has a nice look to complement the terrific voice – which on this record showcases a great tone and delivery, and also has a bit of Chrisette Michele vibe.

With R&B now having made a return since the 90s I think this song has potential for the simple fact that it’s very relevant for today. I would like to hear her range on other records. For instance, I think she could do a big ballad record. Eliza is certainly somebody I will be keeping my eye on.“

Andrew Lane – 6

“Although I appreciate the uniqueness of her voice - it’s soulful and corky at the same time – to me the song gets very boring.

To make it better, I would introduce a definite distinction between the chorus and verse. At the moment they sound too much alike. The verse should tell the story, and the chorus should be catchy and lift up in the melodic structure.

Also, if she’s doing that kind of music, her image should be more leftfield and different, rather than look like everyone else in a glamour shot. But she has a lot of potential because I really like her voice. With her unique voice, she shouldn’t be afraid to get out of the box with a great song.”

Song 2:
Deeyana - The Soul

Mathieu Karsenti - 5

“Deeyana’s voice is what makes the track. She has all the credentials to sing those big, powerful ballads as sung by Leona Lewis or even Whitney Houston.

She needs to work on developing her artistic side otherwise she is in danger of drawing comparisons to Alicia Keys (the piano intro doesn’t help).

Although the songwriting is good and meaningful, the predictable production lets it down somewhat. I would like to hear more original arrangements and sounds, and also a greater emphasis on her talent as a multi-instrumentalist and gifted vocalist, which should be her chief selling point, not just her good looks.

Ultimately she should develop more as an original and creative artist rather than going for the obvious.”

Ron Campbell - 7

“I see Deeyana as Mariah Carey in her younger days. She’s got the great vocals and the simple untouched look. Nowadays her competition would be Leona Lewis.

On this song she shows great vocal control but the vocals actually outshine the track, which could certainly be improved. Overall I’d say it was a very good third single. I would like to hear her on a mid/up-tempo track. I’m pretty sure her team has her on some first single type records.

The fact that she is a multi-instrumentalist is key to her future stage shows. I feel artists like her need to go back to being entertainers. Her being able to play instruments presents a great opportunity to put on a fantastic show.“

Andrew Lane - 8

“It’s a very moving song - I like the soulfulness of it, and the references to Moonlight Sonata in the intro. The hook lifts very well and the verse flows nicely too.

It reminds me of Alicia Keys. But if you’re going to go there, the production model needs to follow the correct radio format. For example, the drums should come in sooner in the verses, and should be more hip-hop than the live sound. I don’t mind it so much on the choruses, but it tends to give it more of a different sound in lift on the choruses. I would still use more program-oriented, drums on the choruses, but lift it like Alicia Keys does.

Although the voice is very strong, the song does seem a little high for her. I would lower it a half-step, so when the high notes come in she can hit it without straining.

Since Deeyana is an accomplished saxophone player, I would incorporate it into the song. It would give her a blueprint in the industry, much like Alicia Keys does with her distinctive style.”

Song 3:
Kendra Granville - Chill With Me

Mathieu Karsenti - 9

“From the intro, Kendra’s warm and soulful tones are enticing. She has strong commercial appeal in the Neo-Soul/Modern Soul genres supported by great production and really nice harmony work.

Overall, she’s almost there. Her voice needs to be more accurate and needs strengthening. It would also be nice to hear more of her work with live instrumentation as it sounds like she would make a good live show.

Kendra sounds and looks charismatic and I would want to work with her on developing her creative and artistic sides.”

Ron Campbell – 8.5

“I could hear this as a first single, or perhaps as a taster to let people know who she is, but with a few adjustments. Firstly, the vocal production could be improved a little - although that might just be the mix – and then the track is just too simple. It needs something added for it to be ready for radio play.

Kendra has very strong vocals and I think we will be hearing more from her real soon as part of the Neo-Soul movement. With the right records we could hear her at the Essence Music festival next year.”

Andrew Lane - 5

“I’m not really feeling this song. There’s nothing that really stands out about it.

Although you could identify the hook clearly, there’s nothing interesting about the delivery. If you’re going to be soulful and distinct, you’ve got to really go back and study the top artists that exhibit that particular style, such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott etc.

The pitch also needs work. Throughout the song it gets very pitchy. Musically, there needs to be greater distinction between the verse and the chorus, even if it’s just drums lifts. Although I’m not convinced by the song there is definitely potential in her voice.”

Remember, demos on review are chosen from the ones uploaded to the A&R Panel. To get your music assessed by our expert panel upload your tracks here.

Alternatively, if you are a music industry professional who would like to join the panel for future demo reviews then please contact us here.

Read On ...

* Slightly left of centre pop takes a turn in the Demo Review