by Grant Foskett
Rhye is the R&B project of singer Mike Milosh, who released debut album Woman under the name with producer Robin Hannibal in 2013. Hannibal has since left the group, leaving sole creative direction to Milosh, who immediately stands out to many due to his vocals. Milosh’s voice is intentionally soft and feminine, as the project is an exploration of love and sexuality, and is in many ways a love letter to the woman who appears on Blood’s cover. Despite its best intentions though, Blood falls short of the pure magic its history promises.
Blood is undeniably very beautiful; from Milosh’s gliding voice to the delicate horns and strings, the album sounds lavish to the point of lascivity. There are certainly imperfections to Milosh’s airy voice and occasionally the arrangements fall short of being the perfect complement, but for the most part, Blood is instrumentally diverse and smooth. For an example of a song where everything went right, look no further than single ‘Please.’ The sparse piano perfectly combines with steady clapping to accent Milosh’s voice, which here is at its best. The subdued chorus highlights his pained yet saccharine delivery in a way that blurs the line between singing and beautifully moaning. ‘Phoenix,’ is also one of the most ambitious compositions Rhye has undertaken, as everything from the beginning bass line to the slick guitar riffs shows instrumental growth from Woman’s often more synthetic sound.
Given this acknowledgement of its beauty, Blood falls short in one very important area: lyrically, it’s either corny or boring. The consistent subject matter of the album is love and sexuality, something that’s been absolutely beat to death by musicians over the last century. Not to say that someone cannot imbue the topic with new life and energy, but that someone is not Milosh. His description of love and sex is defined by surface level descriptions or awkward double entendres. On ‘Taste,’ Milosh refrains “I’ll lick your wounds / I’ll lay you down” like its a profound description. On ‘Softly,’ and every other track, he falls back on the all-too-played-out double meaning of “come” with “I really want you to come with me, ooh.” Overall, the lyrics just never live up to the grace and lavishness promised by the instrumentals and Milosh’s voice. This shallowness often undermines the intricacies of real love, and not to poke into Milosh’s personal life, but it is important to note that he broke up with his wife to which Woman was dedicated to during Rhye’s hiatus. Blood comes more as a portrait of lust, completely debasing the wide-eyed innocence towards love implored on Woman. There is a defense to be made of this devolution, but Milosh comes off as far too myopic to nuance the fine line he blurs between love and lust.
Rhye is certainly interesting in concept. Milosh wants to use his androgyny to accentuate a unique point of view of love and sex. But too often on Blood, he fails to fully utilize this potential and regresses to basic and animalistic depictions of such a complicated topic. No matter how orgasmic the instrumentals can be, when Milosh fails to provide any interesting subject matter, the whole project falls flat.