Review: St. Humain – EMOTIONAL SAUNA EP
Singaporean pop musician St. Humain seems to have the modern pop formula down pat. On the 7 songs off of his debut EP, EMOTIONAL SAUNA (yes, all caps!), there’s not a single dull moment to be found.
Recorded in neighboring Sydney where he’s now based, EMOTIONAL SAUNA EP is a project filled to the brim with throbbing, bass-heavy pop songs that are ready to shake up any venue. Mixing R&B and EDM, St. Humain’s music shines in its pristine production. Album opener “Fever Vibe” kicks off with a perfectly executed build-up and drop, one that is sure to please any pop fan. Again, that soaring vibe is repeated on “Make a Move”. Built off of a climbing chorus of “moves,” “Make a Move” and its intermittent instrumental jam breaks are enough to get the party started (if it hadn’t already). The same could be said about every other song on the album–St. Humain seems determined to pump it up.
But perhaps that’s the thing with EMOTIONAL SAUNA EP. Although the project is filled with great towering hooks that show St. Humain’s pop expertise (“The Thought of You,” “If I’m Honest), there’s an unusual uniformity for the songs on first half of the EP. While all of the songs on EMOTIONAL SAUNA are all bangers in their own right, they’re a bit too safe when they’re all tied together. “Fever Vibe,” “Make a Move,” “If I’m Honest,” and “The Thought of You” are all cut from the same cloth, with only slight variations of the same great song. The chorus, instrumentals, and vocal styles shine brightly when they’re listened to separately, but put together it can be too familiar, too fast. While it’s clear that St. Humain has mastered the pop formula like I mentioned earlier, there’s not too much indication that he’s experimenting with tools outside of his comfort zone.
Surprisingly, it’s “Free Fall,” the second song that he ever released, that introduces both a twist in his formula and some new sounds for him to work with. “Free Fall” is an example that he’s more than capable of producing the hits even with some different methods (it’s the only one where he changes up his BPM & song structure significantly), and it’s even more exciting as a result. St. Humain’s almost unrecognizable cover of John Mayer’s “Gravity” is another welcome revelation: he manages to turn Mayer’s sappy love song into an emotionally charged club anthem. There’s power in St. Humain’s production here, and it’s another testament to his keen production. Finally, EMOTIONAL SAUNA EP ends on “Make a Move–Stripped”, an acoustic version of electro-banger “Make a Move” that shows off his vocal range and gracefully closes out the album. Compared to the rest of the project, the final three songs (“Gravity,” “Free Fall,” and “Make a Move–Stripped”) are the brightest parts of the record because they show St. Humain’s versatility as an artist.
In a press release about EMOTIONAL SAUNA EP, St. Humain stated that “The goal of my music is to make your life better. If my songs don’t mean anything to you and cannot relate to you in any way then I find it sorta useless.” He’s definitely done that here–despite the repetitive first four tracks, EMOTIONAL SAUNA EP is carefully constructed venue-shaking pop that will invite you to the dance floor. If that’s all he wants to do, then he’s succeeded. But there’s more potential here. Give us some more “Free Fall”s, show us some more “Gravity”s–and we’ll keep dancing a little while longer.
Li-Wei Chu is the chief editor of From the Intercom. When he’s not editing drafts and searching for new artists to cover for the website, he loves watching cult films, cooking, and listening to his ever-growing collection of vinyl records. You can follow him on LetterBoxd and make fun of his taste in movies here!