It was a stroke of unfortunate irony that Yuna’s last album was called Nocturnal. After all, the amount of people who slept on it was baffling, given how sumptuous the results were from the union of the Malaysian star and producer Robin Hannibal.
Hannibal assumes most of the production duties on Chapters; when we spoke to her around the release of Nocturnal, she mentioned that there were elements of positivity and empowerment in there. That’s very much the case here in this document of heartbreak – Yuna’s been hurt, and she’s not afraid to call out the fucker that did it.
It’s summed up rather brilliantly on an early standout Lanes. “If this is love I don’t want it… you call this love, you don’t respect it” is delivered with a disarming cadence, and isolates the key to Yuna’s appeal: she doesn’t play wounded victim, she doesn’t play revenge-hunter, she seeks self-assurance in acceptance and it filters out beautifully.
That beautiful filter stretches to most album, which bring in Usher for a surprisingly restrained (and even-footed) turn on Crush and Jhene Aiko on Used To Love You. They sandwich an exceptional melody on Best Love, though there’s arguably a bit of tonal fatigue setting in on the second half of the record. Where Nocturnal had a bit more of a kaleidoscopic kick to it, it’s the nocturnal vibe of this one that has us yearning for the shades we know that Yuna can bring.
Nevertheless, there’s so much evidence in Chapters that reinforces Yuna’s star quality. Sure, she’s not your average popstar – is there room for classy and refined these days? – and that might work to her detriment. But there’s no denying that she’s once again delivered a record to stand up with what’s becoming a fine back catalogue, even if it’s not quite the page-turner we’d hoped for.