South African singer/songwriter/producer Yannick Ilunga (aka Petite Noir) has broken through with a debut that touches upon a multitude of pop styles. It combines the edginess of punk and the universality of pop with poly-rhythmic elements inspired by his African heritage.

Llunga is calling the package ‘Noirwave‘, name-dropping inspirations from Mos Def to Fela Kuti, but the lattice of influence can spread out from the Police and Genesis to New Order here; equal parts electro-pop and fearless R&B.  While at the heart of it is a classic pop turn of phrase lyrical pedigree that gives insight into the mind of a young, burgeoning pop star.

Illunga opens La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful with “Best” a song ignited with a firebomb, a driving level of angst that is palpable from the first beat. There’s an earthiness to the percussion that punches with authority, separating it from your typical pop composition, an idea that echoes all throughout the album. Lyrically it establishes him as an active voice, ready to go forth and challenge: [LISTEN]

Best

The production behind La Vie Est Belle is an essential part of the album’s success. Illunga avoids having to tread through thick over-produced tracks. Instead he takes advantage of thoughtful instrumentation. Tight enough to where the groove is always there, but sparse enough to allow for some intimate moments. The album after all is an introduction so the variety of lyrical themes need room to breathe, and Illunga seems fully aware of how one element affects the other.

On “MDR” Illunga settles back into a deep groove, full of lush layers and airy vocals. He delves into love and the belief that it starts from within, a subtle but universal message: [LISTEN]

MDR

At eleven songs Petite Noir is able to achieve what many new artists fail to do, which is make a statement without inundating fans. It’s the right length and the compositions are well formatted and tight. The theme is an open book, a place that explores emotions and feelings in ways that make Petite Noir one of the more compelling artists to hit the scene in some time.

By letting his youth shine so simple and crystalline on paper, while still driving forward with understated, but notably progressive ideas, so goes debut LP successes 101.