When Erika de Cassier was growing up in the late '90s, R&B hits by the likes of TLC, Destiny’s Child and Brandy & Monica dominated the charts. At the same time, UK garage infiltrated the mainstream thanks to cuts like Artful Dodger and Craig David’s ‘Re-Rewind’ and Shanks & Bigfoot’s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’, while trance caught the crest of its popular wave. Two decades later, Portugal-born, Denmark-raised de Casier channels each of these sounds – to varying degrees – on her aptly-titled new album, an empowering collection of perfect pop for a new generation.
The prevailing influence is R&B, the music de Casier grew up listening to. The child of a Belgian mother and a Cape Verdean father, she, along with her brother, was one of only two Black students in her school in the town of Ribe, Denmark. In an interview with Loud & Quiet, she explained how “MTV was the only place where I saw other Black people, growing up”. By the time she finished school and moved out of her family home, de Casier was producing her own beats, singing her accompanying lyrics softly, almost whispering, due to the paper-thin walls in her flatshare.
These influences and techniques are honed to a fine art on ‘Sensational’; tracks like ‘Polite’, ‘Make My Day’, and ‘All You Talk About’ confront the clichés and complications of romance, from rude dates and cheesy chat-up lines to materialism, with velvet poise and sophisticated melodies. Despite their delicate delivery, de Casier’s confidence on these tracks is palpable, showcasing an artist in command of her creative path.
Now based in Copenhagen, de Casier is no stranger to a club banger either. An affiliate of the Århus’ Regelbau collective, she co-produced her 2019 debut album ‘Essentials’ alongside the crew’s DJ Central, aka Natal Zaks, with whom she also collaborated on the ethereal, breaks-y house cut ‘Drive’. Regelbau’s DJ Sports’ UKG remix of the track has amassed almost a quarter of a million views on YouTube alone. She has also covered Sovereign’s 1998 UKG classic, ‘Truly’, bringing a cosmic flavour to the original’s sweet two-step bounce. De Casier bookends ‘Sensational’ with two cuts that hit a similarly sensual stride.
‘Drama’ — which she also directed and edited the video for — opens the album with a gilding garage beat, as her smoky vocal flow reflects on a romantic dispute. On ‘Busy’, the album’s dreamy penultimate track, de Casier paints a picture not only of her own determination and rising status, but of the non-stop nature of millennial life (to-do lists, skin-care routines, vitamins, endless tidying), all over a crisp UKG beat and lush organ melody-and-bass combo.
A cinematic feel weaves its way into the tracks on ‘Sensational’, in the triptych of ‘Someone To Chill With’, ‘Acceptance (intermezzo)’ and ‘Better Than That’, which blend euphoric trance melodies, classical strings, and silken beats with her lyrics exploring casual relationships and romantic independence.
The album ends on the blissful ‘Call Me Anytime’, a track that nestles on an impossibly subtle drum & bass beat — it begs for a club remix — and which speaks to de Casier’s flair for tasteful genre fusions and heart-rending vocal delivery.
‘Sensational’ is a striking album, and an evolutionary step for an artist for whom this is only the beginning. Having found fans in the likes of Dua Lipa, Shygirl, and Clairo, Erika de Casier is carving her own niche in the world of pop music. With a knack for dance music crossover tracks, she will have no trouble dominating dancefloors as well as charts.