Home Song Reviews Let Kyan’s “Lonely River” Course Through You

Let Kyan’s “Lonely River” Course Through You

by Bailey Johnk

One thing all music lovers should seek in the artists they follow and listen to is diversity. An artist’s music, although cohesive, should be multifaceted. One hit wonders often don’t make it past the first single simply because, in order to follow a chart smashing song, you must offer differentiation. You have to be able to come up with something new and refreshing – something the audience has not quite heard before. Being a musician means being able to innovate: knowing you offer your own value proposition that separates you from the others.

Along with the diversity in music, you should be able to show range, too. You should be able to impact your listeners whether you’re screaming into a microphone along to an electric guitar, or whispering a soft falsetto along to a grand piano. This is why Kyan has huge potential in the music business. It’s his flawless execution with his song “Lonely River” and its live performance that truly makes him a force to be reckoned with.

21 year old singer/songwriter Kyan has been practicing music since age 10, when he taught himself to play piano after getting inspired by his mom’s favorite music, Roberta Flack and Stevie Wonder. Instead of learning from covers like most, he wrote songs and learned more as he went along. At age 15, he was awarded a grant of about $5000 from the Arts Council for his musical talent. Just two years later, he won the UK Unsigned Singer/Songwriter Competition. In 2014, he released his first EP, The Purple Experiment, which was met with good reception.

His career has only grown since then. He released two more EPs, and now Kyan is currently signed to Virgin EMI with almost 100 songs written. He’s collaborated with many artists like Duke Dumont, Madeon, and Knox Brown, and has gotten to tour with some of them as well. Though his music is often marketed as R&B, Kyan also mixes an old soul vibe with electronic rhythms and beats most often used in modern indie music. His newest singles have branched out to something a bit more vulnerable: just him and a piano.

This is the type of vulnerability he exhibited with his live performance of “Lonely River” at Abbey Road studios.

In the beginning, Kyan is just singing along with a piano. It’s simple and more slowed down than the original, but this stripped back performance exposes the intricacies of the melody, and he sings them so smooth and so beautifully. His voice reminds me of Leslie Odom Jr. or John Legend, both of whom have dynamic voices (and are big shoes to fill).

Kyan has such control over his sultry vocals. Every run he sings is perfect and effortless. This control shines through again when he hits insane high notes with such ease, a lot of them add ons just for this performance. Though most of the song is just him and a piano, a string section comes in for the choruses, making the lyrics a bit more dramatic and altogether magical.

This live version is completely different from the song that he originally produced. In the studio version, each instrument is distorted, or has had a pop effect put on it: piano, strings, bass, and horns. The vocals are layered. Cool sonic pop sounds fill every beat. Sometimes the music will drop out to showcase an electronic melody, just for the music to drop back in with added percussion. The background vocals are distorted much like the instruments, but at some points, they’re choir- like, many voices filling the space. A constant bass underlies all the music and vocals to make the song fuller and fatter. The bridge lightens up the music and switches it out with a high, almost angelic vocal part. The whole song is produced to be so dramatic, it can almost be listened to as a movie score. While both versions, to me, are spectacular, each communicate something different and create two distinct moods.

They used to call me the Lonely River

as they would travel to the sea,

and so they call me Lonely River ‘cause I got a river in me…

While all others are fine with traveling to “the sea”, he would rather go his own way, even if he’s all alone, hence the nickname “Lonely River”. Rivers are coursing and fast and free. If he has a river in him, you can imagine he is a very free spirit.

They used to call me Lonely River

as I would wander wild and free,

and so they call me the Lonely River ‘cause I got a river in me.

He takes the road less traveled by, Robert Frost would say. He makes his own path in life, which is often against the norm.

I got my face to the sun, back on the water.

Lonely is my favorite place.

Though he’s happy with being a Lonely River – with living life on his own terms – he’s turned around, and is facing something even bigger and brighter now.

They used to call me Lonely River ‘cause I was driftin’ on a dream,

and so they call me Lonely River ‘cause I got a river in me.

Everyone thought he was crazy or wrong to try to live his dreams. But clearly doing just this led him in the right direction and made him feel more open to the world than he was before.

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