Visuals Mean Everything For Leon Bridges

Stevenson Altidor

We tend to underestimate the effectiveness of a good cover art. The colors, framing, and design all give clues for the album’s direction in the form of visual aesthetics. Once you lay your eyes on the Gold-Diggers Sounds cover, a well-dressed Leon Bridges is the frontman of the brass-colored background. Stylish, confident, and golden.

If you look close enough at his discography, each cover tells you what to expect with each project. Coming Home cover art featured Bridge’s blending in more with the red backdrop, signaling the courage to accept the style he’s presenting and longing for the love he seeks.

Paying homage to the traditional soul and R&B draped in satin. In Good Things, the cover was brown with a close-up of slick-haired Bridges that felt more traditional. The album was more adventurous, peeling off the satin for a more suede feel.

Humans are visual beings. To capture our attention, you have to attract our gaze. By communicating his intent and artistic growth visually, Leon answers your expectation subtly. The color expresses the music’s sound. Bridge’s distance from the colored background predicts the music’s texture and vocal talents. The further he is from the color backdrop, the more freedom he has to showcase his personality.

Bridge’s association with traditional R&B and soul music has garnered him respect within the industry. He is a Grammy award-winning artist who surrounds himself with some of the best musicians in the world. All the cachet in the world, and yet I can’t get away from how freely he portrays himself in his latest album cover.

So how does Gold-Digger Sounds album cover translate beyond pleasing aesthetics? Seamlessly, as a matter of fact. Rick Reed and Nate Mercereau team up to produce a spacious setting. They are setting the stage for Leon’s alluring vocals to cut right through the ethereal production. Talented musicians like Robert Glasper, Terrance Martin, and Ink aid with shaping this modern-sounding album that’s rooted in soul.

Vocally, Leon is a show stopper, demanding your attention amidst the subtle plucks of the guitars, creamy keys, and rich saxophones littered across the album. “Born Again” is the perfect opener for this newfound sound. Instrumentation is slowly stacked up against one another, first with keys, then the saxophone, finally joined by the drum after the refrain. But the duet of vocals and songwriting is the frontman. This is something new and different for the Texas singer, and it’s right in front of us the whole time.

As a whole, songs flow effortlessly from one another like an assembly line. They are shifting the level to create shades of love and desire. There are instances where that flow impedes, but the slick instrumental choices sprinkle beneath his soothing voice keep it from grinding to a halt.

The home stretch of the album starts with the interlude “Gold-Digger (Junior’s Fanfare)” and rounds out with “Don’t Worry”: a tone shift for the album, a much welcome pick me up, creating a more enjoyable listening experience. “Details” is rich with plucky drums and shimmering strings. Leon’s voice is dynamic, proudly crooning about quirks his lover performs unconsciously. In “Sho Nuff,” both the snare and kick drums are snappy, granting the kind of bounce the album needs. But that damn guitar, warmer than a summer day in Miami, comforting and tender, becomes impossible not to wrap yourself around them once the bass hits.

The previously released single “Sweet” is a smooth-sailing ballad that progresses as the song evolves. “Don’t Worry” has this old Western feel. The music unfolds after each verse, with more instruments added to up the texture, transforming this vast, rural song into a big city jam encapsulated everything this project wanted to be.

The biggest takeaway from this album is confidence. This is the most confident Leon’s been. Bridges worried if his appearance would hold him back. Suppose he had the talent to leave his mark like the ones who inspired him. But with one hand diffusing his bright future from his face, the other swings back in  freedom. Liberated from doubt, we get to see Leon unleashed.

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