Being sad about failed love and emotional disasters is almost de rigueur for any self-respecting contemporary star. It shows your human side by connecting with universal experience. In rap and RnB, (primarily male) pain has been a dominant style since Kayne released the morbid 808’s and Heartbreak in 2008. Almost every major artist who has come up since then has been influenced by some aspects of that work. The Weeknd has the whole focus on predatory relations and the hollow pleasures of fame. Frank Ocean has capitalized on the space for naked self-expression. Drake, of course, owes his entire career to his heartbroken persona, although at this point it’s clearly more a marketing tool than coming from any real personal conflict! Conversely, many female artists like Rihanna and Beyonce have adopted a more confrontational attitude to matters of the heart, and produced some of their most forthright and empowered work.
Pretoria based Una Rams is drawing on this international pop hegemony in an interesting, and highly personal, way. His intimately detailed work borders on certain types of confessional folk music- less trap beats, more sighs and whispers. In fact, his Pink Moon EP even shares a title with the album by doomed UK folk singer Nick Drake.
The song Girls Like You is a good representation of his style. It deals with the common musical scenario of being messed around by your object of affection. But Rams doesn’t fall into the common lyrical snares of either self-pity or sexist insults. In fact, he suggests that they should just stay friends. The song’s production is subtly complex. A downtempo piano loop is uplifted by a burst of dancehall style toasting. The celebratory Nobody takes a more courtly approach in which he promotes his personal qualities to a love interest. With his unvarnished style, he charts a heartfelt, but optimistic course through the travails of modern love.