Serena Isioma, a 20-year-old, Chicago-based R&B musician released “The Leo Sun Sets,” an adventurous, empowering debut that blurs genres.
In a feature interview at the end of 2020 for Wonderland Magazine, she noted two interesting aspects about her persona: It’s important for her to pay homage to her Nigerian heritage, so Nigerian children can gain inspiration, and that fans listening to her music can use it as a tool for them to be free and honest with themselves.
Opening track “King (feat. Saint Lewis),” establishes Isioma’s style — Alternative R&B atmospheres mixed with Lo-fi Pop. In the smoky musings of the first-gen Nigerian American, she proclaims dominion over a tough world in a youthful song that celebrates power and all that glitters gold.
“I Don’t Want To Go” by Isioma & MAVI slows the vibe down, working heavier in Lo-fi and R&B. She expresses her feelings in a relationship and juxtaposes a sense of detachment just as quickly with lines like, “You feel something, I wish that I could feel something. It’s not enough to numb the pain with you.”
Rapper MAVI’s addition of the other lover’s perspective flushes more emotion into the song, adding a deeper sense of life and meaning to it all.
Over heavy synths and Electronic experimentation on “Blue Sky,” Isioma embraces rebellion and flirts with sexuality. Following, “Why Am I So Toxic” echoes sentiments of “Blue Sky” — both are explicit and rebellious and show her knack for controlling tight R&B grooves.
Dealing with love and relationships again and displaying her versatile vocal chops on the higher ranged, “Meadows in Japan,” the track’s ability to float from spacey Alt-guitar jams to gritty spoken word Trap and back is memorable.
“I Feel Fantastic” is the final revelation in this seven-track offering that defies conventions. Like a Childish Gambino song, it begins with Gangsta Rap posturing before melting down into an Alternative R&B/Rock jam with soulful vocal effects a la Prince.
Occupying more of a traditional Pop realm, “Stop Calling the Police on Me,” comments on misunderstandings and the power of other people’s perceptions over you. On this song, like all others on “The Leo Sun Sets,” Isioma doesn’t allow anyone to bring down her mood. This final song wraps up the project’s mood perfectly: “Stop calling the police on me, yeah. This is not the help I need, no. You don’t live the life I lead.”