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Review: Nico & Vinz – Black Star Elephant

Norwegian singer-songwriter duo Nico & Vinz finally make their breakthrough with Black Star Elephant, but despite the strength of Am I Wrong and a few other songs, the album’s inconsistency lets it down.

Nico & Vinz started singing and songwriting in 2011 under the name Envy and released their debut album The Magic Soup and the Bittersweet Faces which had some success in the Norwegian charts, reaching 37th place; the single “One Song” is worth a listen but the rest of the album, probably not so much, although their talent is clear. Recognizing their quality, Envy were signed by Warner Bros and transformed into Nico & Vinz to avoid confusion with other artists. This was when the duo finally made their bones, releasing successful singles “Am I Wrong” and “In Your Arms” and then their first album as Nico & Vinz, Black Star Elephant last month.

Firstly, Nico & Vinz try to combine the pop, reggae and soul genres together, and the duo’s Ivorian/Ghanian roots are a persistent undertone, which gives the album it’s own character. The album is very chilled out, definitely the kind of songs you could have on in the background whilst doing other things, which is a strength. “Am I Wrong” is, without a doubt, the standout song in the album. The chart-topping song combines a catchy tune with powerful vocals, which are timed together, to create one of the best songs of 2014. The song also gives off important messages, about following your reams, despite your background and despite people trying to convince you not to. There are few other noteworthy songs. “In Your Arms,” the second single of the album, is not at the same standard as Am I Wrong but it is still a good song and the vocals are again well written. “When The Day Comes,” has featured in the soundtrack for Fifa 15 and is probably already embedded in the minds of tens of thousands of young people across the country. “Last Time” is the hidden gem.The song starts off like a track from a musical but then changes into a lovely ballad and it is set to become the album’s third single.  The song is really well written, the tune is enchanting and overall the song is simply beautiful.

” Nico & Vinz try to combine the pop, reggae and soul genres together, and the duo’s Ivorian/Ghanian roots are a persistent undertone.”

However, the twenty one song album suffers from a lack of consistency. Most of the other songs are fun and chilled but they aren’t memorable at all. Nico & Vinz should have released a much shorter album, perhaps ten songs or so, because it’s easy to find yourself skipping through the album to listen to the songs that you like, rather than listening to the whole album. In fairness, a few of the songs are only thirty second interludes but then that leads to another criticism because the interludes seem a bit pointless and you’re only going to want to listen to them if you’re listening to the whole album.

Norweigan duo Nico & Vinz
Norweigan duo Nico & Vinz

Overall, if you’re looking for an album to chill out to or if a mixture of pop, reggae and soul appeals then Black Star Elephant might be a good buy. However, if you heard “In Your Arms” on the radio and are buying the album on the basis of that one song or if you just like a few of the duo’s songs, i’d recommend buying the songs separately, because you won’t be missing out in avoiding the rest of the album