As the pandemic encroaches on one year of national shutdowns and social distancing, disco-pop music, like many forms of entertainment, has lost its home: the dance floor. Disco accelerates time with rhythm and optimism for the night. This year has juxtaposingly morphed time into something stagnant and indolent, but SG Lewis looks to revitalize disco with his latest full-length project, released Feb. 19.
“With the album being, in some ways, an ode to dancefloors and the moments in those rooms, initially there was hesitation around releasing the album,” Samuel George Lewis, 26, told Evening Standard. “Because that whole world of club culture disappeared.”
Following a trio of concept extended play (EP) projects, “Dusk, Dark and Dawn,” the English singer-songwriter and producer known by his stage name SG Lewis delivers his debut album “times.” The 10-track project finds Lewis playing a range of musical roles with one clear mission — bring disco to life.
“There was harmony in the music,” states a reminiscent voiceover to open the title track “times.” “There was harmony in the behavior of the people / And we had a good time.”
The track continues with a carpe diem drive from Lewis and a collection of strings that formulate a whimsical yearning for brighter horizons. Striking a balance between reminiscence and hopeful, “time” establishes the tone for the remainder of the 40-minute experience.
Written prior to the pandemic, “One More,” featuring Nile Rodgers on bass guitar, tells the story of meeting someone on a night out, and hoping to grasp a heated moment of euphoria and flirtation for one more song.
“I know you can’t stay forever / I know you’ve got friends in the bathroom stall / Been wanting to do this since I met you / Can we just stay for one more song?” the chorus sings.
While the specifics are peculiar and unfamiliar to most, a sentiment to extend the life of a cathartic moment rings true for many. Accompanied with a persistent drumline, grandiose keys and a cheeky array of auxiliary noises, the track culminates into a dance anthem with endless playback potential.
The career-elevating single “Chemicals” finds itself situated in the back half of the tracklist after its initial April 24, 2020 release. Despite an extensive existence in the streaming world, the summer banger molds seamlessly into the project’s larger vision. With a bassline and guitar accents that ring similar to Pharrel’s “Get Lucky,” along with SG Lewis’ flavorful synthesizers, kicks and claps, the track keeps the disco party alive and well.
The track finds itself morphed with “Rosner’s Interlude” — a one-minute speech on the life-promoting qualities of harmony over sparkly synthesizers and a riser featured in “Chemicals.” The interlude is goofy, and perhaps even undeserving of a second listen, but reiterates music’s life-giving ability, and what’s a more fitting track to follow up such an important note?
Away from the microphone, Lewis carves himself into a Calvin Harris or Louis the Child visionary position. Flexing Grammy-nominated caliber production skills, Lewis brings a variety of vocal and performance styles into his production to match his eclectic disco-pop instrumentals.
Produced during the same studio session where Dua Lipa and Lewis crafted “Hallucinate,” “Feed the Fire” is a heartracing dance anthem. Written and produced by Lewis, Lucky Daye enters to deliver an intoxicatingly bubbly and smooth vocal performance.
“I kept coming back to it and then went to LA to write the lyrics with Lucky Daye,” Lewis told Apple Music. “The song is about the tension between two people in the setting of a club. Is it going to happen, is it not going to happen?”
With well-placed piano lines, pop-influenced sound effects and a simple kick and clap percussion line, the track sparks a fiery ambiance that aligns fittingly with Lewis’ lyrics.
SG Lewis is outshined on “Heartbreak On The Dancefloor,” a melodramatic club vibe that slows the album’s tempo. Guest feature Frances provides a sweet, bedroom pop voice, synthetically layered in tasteful proportion. Despite a twinkly set of synthesizers and sticky chorus, Lewis implements a seemingly random set of drum machine noises that create a true heartbreak on the track.
After a nonstop, disco-pop experience, one is left emotionally and physically drained, breathing deeply while the closing track “Fall” winds things down to a close. Lewis exposes vulnerability, regret and loss of hope as he ponders questions of love and life.
“I wanted ‘Fall’ to be like a big exhale after the euphoria and the heights of the album, and the song has an afterglow feeling to it,” Lewis told Apple Music. “This song is recognizing that maybe that thing isn’t coming, that the best thing we might have is something we already have, or have already had, and just to value the relationships in your life. Because there’s no point in wasting your life hoping and wishing for better.”
“times” is available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.