Daniel Caesar swims above water in ‘Freudian,’ a way of remembering love as sacrifice
Daniel Caesar’s album debut, Freudian, was released Aug. 25.
You can call love a kind of weather, taking and giving new seasons like a lifecycle with repetition. It becomes increasingly fluid, so we forget that the better halves of ourselves have always belonged to someone else—maybe at the wrong moment, if we aren’t still waiting for it to come. In Daniel Caesar’s full-length album debut, Freudian, loose footing becomes stable. A journey between drowning in someone else’s waves and the impending touch to need them like oxygen sets Caesar’s 10 track LP above water, with height and some confirmed luck that treading lightly is no way to love.
Denial is a good indicator of what we are willing to deflect and return to, like going out too far to sea and never knowing if the shore is safe. “Get You” questions love, its timing and reality. Toronto-born singer Caesar doubts all the reasons love would occur at this moment—or in any moment—to him, and ponders self-sabotage before love becomes sacrifice. To him, and the hopeless romantic in many of us, we base the disbelief in accepting the love we cannot claim as our own, without considering the possibility it may be gone at any moment.
Returning to romance is the “Best Part.” When it follows and moves us, it can feel like forgetting a small piece of yourself, like you have the support of a million waters surrounding you. In a note for needed collaboration, touch becomes evident with voices alone as Caesar and accompanied songstress H.E.R. echo each other in separate spaces, “I know you’re a star / Where you go I follow / No matter how far / If life is a movie / Then you’re the best part, oh.” The way we break into someone else and create new worlds, without warning, the same way bodies lose themselves in the act of entanglement and lose grip too quickly, is a physical innocence we’ve slowly learned is the act of sharing souls, the morning after.
God comes in many forms. For some, it can be the moment she takes over, or extends her protection beyond the typical. In an adverse way, it’s her multiplicity that makes her shift into every form and position. For Caesar, flooding harmonies make him seek religion in romance in exchange for his own God in the song “Hold Me Down.” “Pussy so good, it sets me on fire / I leave myself, I elevate higher,” leaves room for human touch, a vulgarity that can exist when romance and lust are equally revealing. He interpolates religious music from Kirk Franklin’s “Hold Me Now,” near the end of the song and finds religion, his lover and God intertwine like their own holy trinity. His admiration for love goes much further into his own sexual fantasies in “Take Me Away,” an R&B standstill between the beginning stages of love and the growing physical need to feel and be felt: “Could this be a strange new love I’ve got / Plus she’s always got that loud pack / Inspiration for this soundtrack / Every time she throws that ass back, all she says is / Take me away.” Here, Caesar absorbs the moments where he loses his sense of privacy and ownership, sharing himself much more than just physically; it becomes spiritual to meet his mirrored reflection with open arms.
Has absent love ever given you lost hope? Recollections fumble onto a piano, providing padding for a fleeting falsetto and heartbreak written into ‘90s funk—without the funk. In his fragile delivery, whether busy or unhealthy, Caesar builds cushions for his own closure in “We Found Love.” His reluctance to move on is endearing and dangerous. Though Freudian fumbles in the strangest parts to bring together the pieces of a heart unwilling to give up, a full gospel-like production encourages us to rewrite our own love story, even if this means putting pen to person or finding someone new.
Bordering nostalgia feels like coming back home. Running backwards in circles, trying to fix the wounds that are already scarring before healing, “Blessed” adds some tenderness after the injury is said and done. Whether there is freedom in letting go, or staying behind for the late nights without any reciprocation, these memories serve as the tough lessons that, “Sometimes it gets unhealthy / We can’t be by ourselves, we / We’ll always need each other, and / Yes, I’m a mess but I’m blessed / To be stuck with you.”
Caesar refrains from freedom during the honeymoon phase of a relationship on “Loose.” Caesar stumbles upon his commitment issues and his honesty to stay true to his partner’s needs, separating before the withdrawal swallows both of them as he sings, “You better cut that girl loose, ah / Set it free, let it be / Leave it be.”
In a Frank Ocean-like manner, Caesar builds therapeutic connections delivered in acoustic guitar and piano production. It is obvious that Caesar still finds loose footing where he stands alone. In his most complex state of mind, running doesn’t work when his feelings are on display, and drowning them in vices only proves to break the labels after dark. Caesar battles with human behavior in a psychological analysis of existence, the limbo of love and trust, even if the feeling becomes a pilgrimage over time. Nonetheless, sacrifice is making martyrs out of religion, or confusing love and life with worship and suffering because we tread lightly instead of diving in completely.
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