Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz first debuted as Envy back in 2009, changing their name in 2014 upon finding international success with their hit “Am I Wrong” and signing with Warner Bros. “Black Star Elephant” is their second studio album and is comprised of 21 tracks, including a number of short instrumental interludes and spouts of spoken word.
A mix of tribal drums, acoustic guitars and sweet vocals, the influences of Nico & Vinz’s Ivorian and Ghanaian roots can be felt all throughout the record. “Black Star Elephant” has a level of freshness that’s been missing in the music scene for a while. The lyrics are simple yet uplifting, a rarity in a world of explicit innuendos and shabby uses of metaphor.
The album opens with “Am I Wrong,” “Last Time” and “Know What I’m Not,” arguably some of the weakest songs in the entire track list. While they may appear especially attractive to a pop audience because of their festive sound, the instrumentals in each of the songs are similar to the point that it’s easy to confuse one for another.
However, it is clear that their strength lies in their lyricism. They tell the familiar stories of the human experience, songs about love and identity. There’s a clarity and vulnerability in all three of them that makes them readily relatable and accessible to the audience.
Two songs in particular feel immensely exotic. The unique tone of the mandolin in “Miracles” resonates in the ear of the listener, and in “My Melody” you are instantly transported to the distant African coast with hued vocals rich in emotion. It’s an unexpected but welcome use of sound inspiration in the album.
Later on in the album comes a series of summery romantic tunes: “Runnin’,” “Imagine,” and “In Your Arms.” Each has an allure which stems from their candor, as if each lyric was written with great intention and purpose.
The final two tracks “When the Day Comes,” and “Imma Imma” are celebratory in sound. They finish the album off with positive yet fierce lyricism and beat.
“Black Star Elephant” is definitely successful in proving that Nico & Vinz can do more than just produce a pop hit and that they have the potential to last longer than the impressive popularity of their chart-topper “Am I Wrong.” In this album, they truly master the craft of storytelling with songs that are compelling because they feel so familiar. However, the duo can grow as artists by perhaps showing a bit more flexibility in genre. Only a certain number of tracks were very much distinctive in sound, causing the rest to sort of blend together.
If they can achieve this while still being able to maintain their African groove which they’re so known for, Nico & Vinz can surely become household names in the States as well as all over the world.