As she came in the game with a beat and bounce (word to Azealia Banks), the Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter Elle Varner proved she had star power with the J. Cole-assisted “Only Wanna Give It To You,” the quirky and catchy “Refill,” and the luscious “I Don’t Care.”
Whether it was her jazzy vocals, relatable storytelling, or overall cool-girl-from-around-the-way persona, Varner successfully pulled us in and unveiled her magic to us on her debut album, aptly titled Perfectly Imperfect.
In celebration of the album’s 5th anniversary, we’ve selected a handful of her best songs from her RCA Records debut. Here are our Top 5 songs:
Ms. Varner is every woman and it’s all in her on this slow-burning deep cut. Varner lets her lover know what she can do, be and accomplish as his woman on this Oak & Pop-produced record. “So when you go into a storm/I will be there, protect you/I will the shoot the wave down/I’ll come around, surround you / With a light I’ve never shown/I will be there lighter than a leaf in your pocket/I’ll be the air,” she sings. What makes this a standout is that it’s (arguably) the smoothest record on the album, which is due to the funky bass and stunning tenderness in her voice. This would’ve been a nice pick for the fourth and final single, as the song is as breezy as a cool, autumn night.
If Brandy’s “Have You Ever” had a twin, it would definitely be this album cut from Perfectly Imperfect. On the Pop & Oak and Jimmy Varner produced track, Elle describes her feelings of undying love to her true love, which is unfortunately unbeknownst to him. “Maybe, maybe in another life/I could be the girl who walks up to the guy/And tells him, tells him how she feels inside/But not tonight, tonight,” she sings. Although Elle’s pen game is always on point, it definitely shows here through the vividness and honesty in the verses. Pair that with a beautiful, Prince-esque electric guitar and Elle’s finest vocal showing, and we definitely have a winner.
Who knew a hip-hop bass line, staccato drum machine, and a fiddle’s riff on a continuous loop could make for one of the best R&B songs of this decade? Elle, in all of her “giggling” and “fumbling” glory, effortlessly tells the story of where all love first begins: the initial attraction. “Wishin’ and hopin’ that I don’t blow it/I’m nervous as hell/I don’t wanna show it/And right now I don’t even know what I’m saying,” she sings. Outside of its uniquely genius sound (crafted by R&B hitmakers Andrew “Pop” Wansel and DJ Camper), it stands as the perfect follow-up to her lead single “Only Wanna Give It To You.” This record showcased a sexier side of her artistry, but, at the song’s core, remained her best quality: her knack for storytelling.
“I Don’t Care”
Led by a beautiful sample of Kool & The Gang’s “Little Children,” Elle tells the story of love in its purest form. “Clearly I’m gone and I’m going/Into the deep end/Far over my head/It’s so unfair/I’m gone and its showing/All over my skin/Everyone knows gone and it shows/But I don’t care,” she sings. The song’s sound is lush and sonically pleasing, but why it makes this list is how the story of the song is told in its music video, which is filled with beautiful images of same-sex and interracial relationships juxtaposed with the hatred experienced by both groups, bringing this groovy house party jam to life.
“Damn Good Friends”
Driven by an acoustic guitar, Elle is willing and ready to leave the friend zone on the album’s penultimate track. “Two puzzles/Identical with the same piece/Missing from both never complete/Never achieving our true perfection/So why go scour the Earth for missed piece/Maybe the piece is in our kiss/Maybe the answers in my direction,” she sings. Written and produced solely by her and her father, Jimmy Varner, this track could almost serve as a back story for its preceding track “Welcome Home,” which was also written and produced by the Varners. The lyrical game is always Elle’s to play, but it’s the way she wields her voice with the perfect mix of romanticism, admiration, and frustration that makes this one a shining star on an already bright album.
What’s are some of your favorites from Perfectly Imperfect? Do you agree with our list? What song(s) did we miss? Let us know in the comment section below!