We don’t half love ourselves a bit of Nao, but it’s hard not to baulk somewhat at a tracklist that’s 18 strong. EIGHTEEN. On some levels it’s not that hard to believe that a debut act would have so much to say, but there’s a slight worry going into For All We Know that too much of a good thing might not be so good after all.
But of course, it’s no accident that our favourite London gal kicks off with a track called Like Velvet, because – duh, cliche – that’s the level of smoothness we’re talking about throughout this record. Get To Know Ya is an immediate gearshift into the R&B hot-jam territory we know from her, with licks of funk guitar the perfect playground for Nao to do her thing. “Maybe we can hold on to the clouds that we keep falling through,” she sings, breezy as fuck on a track that pretty much encapsulates the same.
It’s telling that Nao has also collaborated with Disclosure, because there are times where her tone and timbre match Aluna Francis. But while Nao has no chart-stopping White Noise in her arsenal, she arguable delivers a collection richer and more mature than AlunaGeorge did. Happy has those classic, sun-soaked R&B melodies that wouldn’t have been out of place on MTV Base back in the day, while collaborations with the likes of GRADES, AK Paul (Trophy), and Abhi/Dijon (Adore You) hit their marks and then some. That last one, in fact, feels so much like a crystallised classic – hell, an amalgamation of Miguel and Mario – that in a fair world it’d be trapezing through the higher echelons of the chart.
At the centre of it all, though, is the woman herself. Nao drifts between featherlight princess to seductive temptress within moments, soaked in a charisma and confidence that can’t be taught. There’s no strain to enjoy her music, no force to help enjoy her voice, and for that reason our initial trepidation of track length is dashed rather quickly – 18 songs pass by so quickly, we could easily do with 18 more. And, for all we know, this lady’s only just getting started.