Elle Varner’s Perfectly Imperfect

By Gorata Chengeta

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R&B singer-songwriter Elle Varner’s first offering, Perfectly Imperfect is a lucky packet of heartfelt ballads and up-tempo tunes, suited to the tastes of young women .The album was released by RCA Entertainment in August 2012.

The album kicks off with the lead single, ‘Only Wanna Give it to You’. Admittedly, this song is all it took to rouse my curiosity in the rest of the album. Here, Varner’s vocals are complemented by an invigorating, funky beat and a verse from lyrical mastermind, J. Cole. The dynamic hit, which peaked at number 10 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay Billboard chart, is certain to get you moving.

Beautiful ballads

Once Elle Varner has you hooked, it will be almost impossible to stop listening to her album. Following Only Wanna Give it to You, Varner’s next piece, ‘Refill’ is a ballad set to the tune of captivating instrumentals. The infusion of country influences into a classic R&B song is strange and yet, enchanting. If you doubt the 23-year-old’s talent, be prepared to get blown away. In this song, Varner is not shy about showing off the nuances of her impeccable vocal range.
‘Stop the Clock’ is Perfectly Imperfect’s highlight. Coupled with the haunting sounds of the violin, the song encompasses the winning elements of a classic break-up song. It is expertly arranged and dramatic in all the right places. Lyrics like ‘[I] can’t tell my tears from the raindrops’ and ‘I’ve got forever to never see you again’ vividly convey the pain of being treated badly by a significant other.Varner’s vocal delivery in ‘Stop the Clock’ makes her comparable to artists like Alicia Keys and Mary J Blige.

Varner’s lyrics reflect her experiences and her insecurities. We see this sensitive side in ‘Not Tonight’, another of the album’s gems, where she reveals her fear of confessing her feelings to her love interest. In a soft tone, she sings,

‘Who would I be to make my feelings known’
I’d need a little audacity but it’s not in my bones.’

Throughout Perfectly Imperfect, and here particularly, Varner’s honesty is what makes her endearing.

Influences & Imperfections

Varner’s parents have musical backgrounds and were both influential in the creation of Perfectly Imperfect. Perhaps because her mother was a back-up vocalist for Motown legend Barry White, Varner is one of very few R&B artists who use Motown beats in their work. In ‘So Fly’, the influence of Varner’s father, a co-producer on the album and musician, is clear in the lively, instrumental tune. On the whole, Varner’s exposure to different styles of music proves to be an added advantage and it is her choice of eclectic, old-school beats sets her apart from her peers.

‘Welcome Home’ is the album’s only disappointment. Due to its monotonous chorus and simple arrangement, the song simply pales in comparison to others. Aside from this, the 11-track album is only 41 minutes long ‘ hardly long enough. Also, even though the individual songs are quite good, the album sequencing falls flat.

Final word

Perfectly Imperfect is worth the listen because it speaks to the variety of experiences young women go through. Whether she’s singing about parties, falling for someone, being friend-zoned or the pressure to look good, Elle Varner’s sound is contemporary and vibrant. Her vocals are out-of-this-world and her use of music technique is commendable. Lastly, by allowing her vulnerability to show, Varner keeps her listener hanging on to every word.

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