Gallant to bring inventive R&B sounds to Calvin

Gallant is the newest artist labeled and associated with the new wave of R&B. While his music contains elements of contemporary and new wave R&B including smooth vocals, slow tempos and soul influences, the genre tag is actually a disservice to the 23-year-old Los Angeles artist. If one listens past the obvious, there is a musical depth in Gallant’s music that is far-reaching and ambitious.

In an interview with “The Baltimore Sun,” Gallant discusses his broad range of influences, looking to the contemporary R&B artists of the ‘90s but also to alt-rock acts, such as Radiohead and Incubus, for their experimental tendencies and lyrical quality. The result is a broad palette of sounds, textures and moods that inform Gallant’s work.

With the R&B elements found in his music, Gallant pushes the genre back to more passionate, even frenetic territory by using his vocal range and cryptic lyrics to create songs with vague lyrics but definitive moods. Gallant has a rare talent that allows him to express what a song is about without the use of language.

If his most recent song, “Skipping Stones,” featuring Jhene Aiko, had lyrics about tax law instead of existential dread, listeners would still understand what the song was supposed to make them feel. This gift of vocal revelation can be seen on Gallant’s cover of Sufjan Stevens’ “Blue Bucket of Gold,” which already had sobering power in its original form but, with Gallant in the lead role, ditches subtlety in favor of forced entrance into the psyche. All of these elements are intensified in Gallant’s live set where his physical stage presence adds a theatrical support to his already telling vocals.

Though Gallant’s music takes root in contemporary R&B, it renews a passion that has been lost in most modern R&B in addition to extending to sounds outside the genre. As an audience, we would do well to appreciate the heritage that comes with R&B—a tradition that blends traditional African-American music into a contemporary form—while also allowing Gallant’s music to take us someplace new. Gallant has the musical tools and song-writing capabilities to use a saturated style of music and still sound fresh, while also pushing into new sonic territory. This is a rare gift—and one that Gallant has displayed in his young career and in his live shows—to be able to use vast sonic ambitions in a way that challenges genre preconceptions while still remaining navigable for music listeners.

Gallant is set to perform on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 8 p.m. in the CFAC auditorium