Back to Top


by J Cole

This recent cut from J Cole’s third consecutive Billboard 200 chart–topper immediately hooked me with the unusual delivery of its main vocal lyric, punctuated as it is by little breaths between the words. “I. Keep. My. Head high. / I. Got. My. Wings to carry me.” I’ve spent so much time analysing vocal performances, it can sometimes feel like there’s nothing new under the sun, but then something like this comes along — such a simple idea and yet so effective. The way Cole doubles his pace from the first verse (0:43–1:40) to the second (2:52–3:34) is another great trick.

But is that a bit of headphone spill from the (muted in the mix) main beat breaking through on the vocal mic at 0:09? If so, then I’m glad that kind of thing doesn’t just happen to me…