Malaysian artist Yuna returns with her fifth international release titled Chapters. Following a strong but undoubtedly underrated 2013 record Nocturnal, her sound now feels more mature and streamlined. On Chapters, Yuna reaffirms her unique indie pop style while highlighting stronger electronic and R&B influences.

‘Chapters’ by Yuna – Album Review

The record’s main theme – overcoming heartbreak — seems entirely unoriginal in the midst of a multitude broken-hearted music artists today. But what makes Yuna stand out is the mature quality of her voice and the unmistakable appeal of her music style combining pop and indie folk tunes.

Usher-assisted single “Crush” stands out with a more mellow, quiet and soulful approach. The singer takes a step away from the gloom of heartbreak in favor of a sensuous, downbeat musing. The relaxed vibe of “Crush” proves a successful pop formula, blending Yuna and Usher’s vocals exquisitely. She continues in the same vein with a track like “Best Love,” which showcases the breathy, seductive quality of Yuna’s voice.

Another collaboration on Chapters — “Used to Love You” featuring Jhené Aiko — represents the flip side of the coin thematically and vocally. The heartbroken but empowered woman is the central protagonist here just as in most tracks on the record alla Beyonce‘s Lemonade. Though the track pales in comparison, the emotional core is just as genuine and real. On “Too Close” Yuna truly shines with a self-affirming and hopeful viewpoint. She turns the heartbreak into a mellow-sounding and admittedly somewhat generic pop piece.

Amidst songs about coping with unrequited love and romantic strife – a personal but rather universalized experience in the case of Chapters — “Places to Go” stands out as one of the few truly personal tracks on the album. It is also the most sonically mismatched one, and this is what makes it the best one. Produced by DJ Premier, the track fails to fit in with the general pop/R&B flow of the record, but rather takes a pronounced turn towards old-school hip-hop. The accompanying video opens with a spoken monologue about finding your place in the world, a place you can call home, before plunging into the offbeat tune. Yuna recalls childhood memories and opens up about her current struggles, feeling misunderstood and having the urge to run away from it all.

Yuna’s Chapters reaffirms the position that the singer holds in today’s music. Her mellow pop is easy and pleasurable to listen even when she tackles heavy topics like heartbreak. She may fail to fully use the emotional potential of such a cataclysmic event, but that may also be due to an oversaturation of artists singing about their romantic struggles nowadays. In the end, Yuna shows that she may be on the right track by allowing herself to drift away from her comfort zone and putting the beginning of a new chapter.

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