A gust of exotic tones renders a patient rhythm in “Money is the Drug,” the brand-new single from Barrington Levy, and they’re studded with a swaggering color that will bleed into every other instrumental facet that the song contains. The beat of the hollow-point percussion becomes the centerpiece of the track, but it’s not designed to draw all of our attention away from the velvety vocal that Levy is dispensing from behind the soft melodies.
“Money is the Drug” isn’t as angst-ridden as its title implies it is, but with its clustered harmonies that linger over a bumpy bassline, it should suit the soundtrack of most crossover worldbeat fans this year.
I’m a little hesitant to call this an outright world song because, in reality, it isn’t one. “Money is the Drug” doesn’t know what it wants to be stylistically; it’s got a pop hook wrapped in reggae-influenced tones and dancehall textures, and its cerebral construction makes it seem a little more bombastic than it needs to be. It’s not nearly as acerbic as some of the other songs out of his scene this fall are, but that’s why I think Levy picked it as a single; this isn’t about advertising the aesthetical cloth that it was cut from, but instead demonstrating the experimentalism that this artist is embracing with open arms right now.
The vocal is affectionate and has a reflective quality to it that is, to some extent, even more evocative than the lyrics that it’s conveying. Levy’s best weapon in the studio is his golden pipes, and they’re given the VIP treatment from behind the soundboard in this latest single. Though the instrumental arrangement is perplexing to say the very least, the serenade in the eye of the storm is holding everything here together like sonic superglue.
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of what makes “Money is the Drug” an experimentalist’s dream. To be clear, the excessive melodicism in the instruments doesn’t translate as indulgent; if you ask me, Barrington Levy does brilliantly whether it’s just him, a guitar, and a bucolic ballad that he’s singing from the bottom of his heart or if he’s working with something more on the liberal side of the equation, which is the case in this arrangement. I hope that I get the chance to see him perform live in concert at some point in the future, if for no other reason than to hear songs like this one in their rawest and most unvarnished state. My gut tells me that, even in limited circumstances, the material might be even more gripping than it is with this additional polish applied to it.
With a firm grasp of who he is and what he wants to do with his music, I know that Barrington Levy is going to be ready to take on anything that this industry can throw his way. His songwriting is almost ready for the big leagues, and all things considered, “Money is the Drug” is a truly sublime single that showcases a vibrant vocal and stunningly adept compositional awareness from a player that everyone should be talking more about right now.
We do music reviews for Independent Artists and Publicists.