With sultry, often R-rated lyrics and flashy vocal overdubs, Oklahoma City’s John Winston creates a candid brand of R&B that calls it as he sees it. While that common genre trope of innuendo does make several appearances on his latest release, lines like “I’m the fingers and you’re the glove” show that even they are thinly veiled. His frankness may prove too much for some, but others will find Winston’s direct, often cocky four letter words pleasing in the context of his smooth delivery.
Destiny is a three-track EP that is more of a full album preview than a complete stand-alone work. It does plenty to advertise the range of what the eventual full-length will offer, so long as it, too, will be preoccupied almost entirely by amorous hookups. Yes, there are themes of dating and women, but at its core, Destiny is less about love and more about the making thereof.
Perhaps Winston would debate this view, as two thirds of his EP include “love” in the title. The first is album opener “Tinder Love,” which is the strongest track of the three. With a catchy chorus and a solid concept, it delivers on its title as it culls through the ambiguity of phone app dating. The crisp beatmaking by Boston-based collaborator NOISEINK is a tight fit, too, with a keen inclusion of shredding electric guitar undercurrents conveying the cool edge that the song needs.
Next is “With Love,” which sees the narrator addressing a partner who has fallen for him. The narrator doesn’t share the sentiment, and for the rest of the song, his topics vary from better communication to exploitation. Musically, Winston’s voice is on point, as usual, but the overdubbing proves to be too crowded. At times, it sounds like there are a dozen John Winstons crooning over each other, and while that approach can work in the right context with the right arrangement, it feels messy here. The breathy mixing is an odd choice, too, though it’s unclear if that’s the work of Winston or his producer here, DJ iShine.
The closer, “Made To…” is the overt, imagery-filled cut of the bunch. If its title were to continue any further, it would have to be censored on most platforms, so that gives some idea as to the nature of the song. While the vocal arrangement again threatens to overload the song toward the end, Winston reins in his melismas just enough to keep the song on course. The steamy production from OKC’s Yellowhash is appropriate, too, as it embellishes the tone with spacious synth hits and a steady beat.
Altogether, the three songs fit well together conceptually, but having three different producers keeps them from gelling musically. They all represent the hip-hop and R&B genres fine, but each goes about it differently. The tracks have unusual cut-off points, too, which keep the EP from flowing as well as a smooth, sensual listen ought to. This could be an artifact of the future full-length release, but it would be an easy fix for the sake of the EP.
Popular hip-hop and R&B have taken a turn in recent years, no longer pussyfooting when it comes to romance. In many ways, listeners tired of sweet talk find a thrill in the directness, and Destiny provides plenty of that in its short runtime. The production work has its bright moments, but what really seals the deal on this approach is Winston’s bold, syrupy voice. His songs require a high level of confidence and skill to pull off, and he brings both. It will be interesting to see what he turns out on his debut full-length, but for now, Destiny goes a long way to satisfying those curiosities…and others.
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.