Best New Music: Una Rams makes a compelling declaration of love on “ilikeyou”

a compelling declaration of love in modern relationships

In some corners of the internet, there’s an ongoing requiem for the present state of R&B. The growing ubiquity of a nihilistic edge in the genre since the 2010s has raised concerns among listeners, critics, and fans about an assumed disintegration of the genre they love and recognize thanks to the popularity of songs about loveless sex, complicated romance, and puerile machismo. While there’s indeed a spike in songs that fixate on these themes and propagate them, the global spread of R&B and its adjunct sounds means that hubs in South Africa, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom are still creating music that’s unabashedly pro-romance and whimsically erotic. 

There’s hints of all that’s alluring about golden age R&B and more in the work of South African singer, Una Rams. Across the six years of his professional recording career, Rams has made breaking down the intricacies of romance– both his and his partners’–an earnest mission while sneaking in influences from a broad spectrum cutting across shoegaze, electronic music, and Afropop in his experimentalist sounds. 

The title of Rams’ projects have also often sounded like cogent treatises on romance that should not be passed up. 2021’s ‘hold me when it’s cold: a mixtape’ set the pace for a more concise reflection on intimacy on 2023’s ‘hold me when it’s cold: the cuddle pack.Songs like 2 AM and Body Party channeled a powerful yearning that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the 1990s R&B landscape. 

The follow-up to ‘hold me when it’s cold: the cuddle pack’ is an even shorter, pithier dispatch on love, romance, and attraction with a special focus on how these emotions move the components of Rams’ world. Subtlety has never been the forte of the Shy singer and he does away with all inhibitions across the 16-minute runtime of his latest project ‘so in love…’ And no song on the EP offers a more definitive proof of the singer being in tune with his feelings and spelling out his desires than the project’s first song, ilikeyou.” From the beginning, the cards are all on the table with the first words offered being, “Don’t you want to start a relationship?”  It’s a potently declarative one-liner that cuts through the uncertainties that typically mess with modern relationships and sets the tone for what’s to come. 

Part of what has made Rams such an engaging listen is how he manages to invigorate his whispery style with innovative vocal tics and quirky production choices that allow his balmy voice to breathe and shine through without overpowering the message.ilikeyou is no exception in this regard; afrohouse grooves powered by production duo, London Rhodes, give an atmospheric feel to Ram’s weighty romantic impulses with Roctonic adding an extra layer of warmth. 

When Rams says, “I just thought I should speak / Say you’re perfect for me,” it rolls off his tongue with the same lightness and clarity of thought that made “next2me” a favorite off ‘hold me when it’s cold: a mixtape.’ While the world continues to go back and forth about the present and future of R&B, there can be no doubt about the ingenuity and applicability of Una Rams’ work and how ilikeyou  set the stage for his most declarative work yet. 

Listen to ‘ilikeyou” here.

[Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE]

Words by Wale Oloworekende