Chicago R&B singer Ravyn Lenae makes a play for stardom on Hypnos

In 2015, when Chicago R&B wunderkind Ravyn Lenae was just 16, she self-released a sophisticated, vigorous EP called Moon Shoes, singing about romance and longing with the grace and lucidity of an artist who understood herself. Now 23, Lenae has grown considerably from that already auspicious start. On her new debut full-length, Hypnos (Atlantic), her razor-sharp voice glides through songs smoothly enough to make everyone who ever bought a hoverboard jealous. Lenae can stir up complicated emotions with a tiny gesture—a brief trill, a simmering coo—and she also knows how to make big statements. On “Where I’m From,” she evokes bittersweet longing and hopeful wonder as she sings of her African diasporic roots, which were severed by America’s ugly history but remade in her imagination; with a controlled whisper, she coaxes warmth from the song’s plucked acoustic guitar and unembellished reggaeton beat. Hypnos runs close to an hour, and it has a few lulls where you might notice its length, but the album peaks so high and so often that you’ll forget all about those by the end. When a restrained chorus blossoms atop the shuffling beat of “Satellites,” it’s like a cool summer breeze blowing into the song’s late-evening heat—an ecstatic release of tension that many pop songs promise but few deliver.

Ravyn Lenae, Wed 6/22, 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, $30, $25 in advance, 5+

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