Sydney Bennett probably never fathomed how her makeshift home studio in her bedroom and lessons in sound engineering would result in Grammy-winning neo-soul collective The Internet, let alone the release of her first solo project, Fin.
Syd, who was raised on her heroine Erykah Badu‘s neo-soul, a musical genre emerging from the weaving of soul and R&B, croons and demonstrates a supreme handle over her soft and often sultry voice.
To many, Syd’s real breakthrough is arguably derived from the third studio album Ego Death, which her band, The Internet, released in 2015. Ego Death champions in its neo-soul sound and, at times, percussive production with Syd’s mastery of narrative songwriting. The Internet collective truly fused to deliver an album that not only showcases their capacity to produce a rich array of sounds from song to song, but makes listeners sway as they feel their sound unfurl, whether through the rich bass, syncopated drum beats, or sublime transitions in the middle of songs.
The Internet (the band)
Conversely, SYD’s 2017 release of her debut album “FIN”, was envisioned by her as “an in-between thing—maybe get a song on the radio, maybe make some money, have some new shit to perform.” FIN is, first and foremost, Syd’s tribute to women, an album heavily based on sex, feeling good, and about how “you don’t have to be good looking or buff or any of that to be a sex symbol“. SYD’s “Shake Em Off”, the song that kicked off Fin, established the tone of self-assurance by acknowledging she’s a “young star in the making”, and regardless of skepticism, “there’s nothing you [anyone] can tell me, I’m grown.”
Steve Lacy and Syd’s focus on beat-heavy production, reminiscent of Aaliyah and Timbaland’s 90s R&B grooves, can be appreciated throughout Fin‘s production. The lyricism in Fin, in contrast to Ego Death, comes off as simple and choppy, and although her hyperfocus on a gay woman’s pleasure can be lauded as political, there is an incongruence in the lyrical simplicity of her solo work in contrast to the complexity she mastered in her narrative songwriting in Ego Death.
Sydney Bennett “Syd tha Kyd”
Syd’s prowess as a producer, however, is unveiled in Fin, whereas in Ego Death, she mostly vocalized and wrote. In spite of Fin‘s underwhelming songwriting, the album succeeds in capturing a singer-songwriter reveling in her freedom to write and produce an album for her own sake, while exalting the confidence in her sound that only years of practice have given her. Sonically, the shadows of Ego Death‘s funk can be traced in her closing track, “Insecurities”, along with the mid-song transitions which so markedly distinguish Ego Death.
While Syd’s whispers to her (potential) lovers about nights of debauchery in FIN do not stray too far from Syd crooning over heartbreaks, love, and lust in Ego Death, her relaxed, commercialized lyricism for Fin pale in comparison to the two-part lyrical journeys she writes for Ego Death in songs like “Just Sayin/ I Tried”, “Palace/Curse”, and “Somthing’s Missing”.