British trio “FLO” takes ‘The Lead’ with their debut EP
The feeling of ‘90s and 2000s nostalgia, packaged within a Y2K aesthetic of low-rise jeans, belly chains and R&B breakup songs, are on display for Gen Z to embrace.
While Stella Quaresma and Renee Downer met at Sylvia Young Theatre School in London, Jorja Douglas was a winning contestant on the CBBC show “Got What It Takes?” in 2017. The two discovered Douglas as her singing videos went viral on Instagram and formed “FLO,” signing to Island Records in 2019. In March 2022, Quaresma, Douglas and Downer of FLO came together to debut their hit single, “Cardboard Box,” in March 2022.
Two months later, the trio announced the release of their debut EP, entitled “The Lead,” two days before its release on July 8.
“We can’t believe you guys can finally have it! It’s been a loooong journey but every second has been worth it. Thank you so much, enjoy the ride,” the trio said in an Instagram post.
Their music video for “Cardboard Box” reached over four million views as of October 6, after making their television performance debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! the same night.
The extended playlist consists of five songs and one bonus song on the Apple Music: Next Up Edition. Each track tells a story of relationships, friendships, heartbreak and confidence.
Each song has its own unique story and development. Some were better than others in terms of songwriting and production.
Cardboard Box: 9.5/10
The first single premiered with a music video encapsulating visuals of Y2K aesthetics. The trio wore low-rise cargo pants and crop tops as they spewed resentment toward their ex-partners in the opening lyrics. “Imma put your s–t in a cardboard box, changing my numbers and I’m changing the locks,” the chorus reads. The harmonies of their voices are remarkable as they close out the song with Douglas’ flawless Mariah Carey-reminiscent whistle notes. This was the perfect song to debut the group’s discography and introduce themselves to the masses.
The second track displays themes of breakups and resentment toward players. The song opens up with fast-paced beats, mixed with 20-year old Downer’s alto notes as she carries the first verse effortlessly. The music video visuals portray the girls in all-black, sophisticated and sexy outfits as Quaresma is rocking the classic Mugler Illusion mesh catsuit. Immature is an R&B song confirming their hatred for immature men who lack communication skills. The only thing missing from this piece is a bridge to connect the second verse to the end of the song. Regardless, the track had a flawless ending with all of their voices harmonizing until the very last note.
Not My Job: 9/10
One of their most recent singles was added to the Apple Music: Next Up Film Edition version of their EP “The Lead.” The song premiered on September 21 and instantly gave fans nostalgia for the many other Black R&B groups of the Y2K era.
“FLO is for the girls who wanted to be a Cheetah Girl,” said a Twitter user.
Fans are hoping this single will come with a music video before the end of the year. So far, the trio has provided a teaser TikTok of the members rehearsing choreography before the track’s initial release.
The fourth track on their EP is a classic R&B song focusing on friendships, confidence, fun and living their best lives for summer 2022. The acoustics, in the beginning, draw fans in for a Destiny’s Child-inspired summer song.
Feature Me: 10/10
Easily one of the best tracks on the EP, this track is one of their PG-13 songs about intimacy and enjoying their partner’s presence. Each one of the members tackles a verse giving the audience a multitude of vocal ranges.
“Got me breakin’ the rules, there ain’t no steppin’ to, he’s my forbidden fruit,” said Downer in the best-written verse, the opener. It tells such a creative story about how infatuated she is with her lover, in lyrics that make the flow so creative. The trio is beyond innovative for having the verses sung from the lowest to highest vocal tones for the trio.
The song consists of Queresma’s vocals in the chorus, and Downer and Douglas leading the first two verses.
“Cause boy, I need to take the lead. So match my energy,” said Quaresma in the chorus.
The three-minute track ends with the line, “I’ll take the lead,” sung in harmony by the trio, referencing their project title. There were no flaws in the songwriting process as the song ended with Douglas’s whistle notes once again, adding the finishing touches to the song like parsley on a dish.
Another Guy: 9.5/10
The playlist concludes with a slow, intimate, acoustic track mourning a relationship.
“When it comes to love, you be actin’ nonchalant. Don’t know why you’re tryna front, playin’ games, you’re not the one,” said Douglas in the second verse.
This track is a song every straight woman can relate to in a way. It visualizes the feelings of a failed relationship through powerful lyrics once again. This was an exceptional way to conclude the EP.
This playlist had all of the right tracks at the right places with only minor errors in production. This was an excellent way to debut themselves as R&B artists that are next up in the industry. This project overall is more than deserving of a rating of 10/10 for production, vocals and songwriting. It is more than evident that the London-based group has a lot of Black millennial influence.
“We were listening to American artists. Not to say anything about London artists, but like American R&B like Brandy, Rihanna, Beyonce, Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child…and then like men like Usher and Ne-Yo,” the group told Nyla Symone from New York City’s radio station Power 105.1.
The girls have a lot to look forward to as far as fame and notoriety, and knowing that this perfectly-produced EP is just the beginning of their journey makes their future beam with success.
Header Graphic by Madeline Smith