“Better Tomorrow” is the third offering by Jamaican singer Etana. Both her 2008 debut “The Strong One” and her 2010 follow up “Free Expressions” recieved praise for their mix of gorgeous singing and concious lyrics. Her latest album continues on that path, offering 14 tracks of music that melds neo-soul with reggae.
Etana has an incredible voice. It’s soulful and sweet and has the edge of someone who has had to fight hard to be where she’s at. She also knows how to use her voice. She never overplays it or overpowers the songs. She can hit the high notes when she needs to, but recognizes that sometimes pulling back a little can be more powerful than cranking it up to 11.
Shane C. Brown of Jukeboxx Recordings produces the bulk of the album, and like Etana, he subscribes to a less is more philosophy. His productions are restrained, relying heavily on acoustic instrumentation without too many frills and flourishes, and giving Etana plenty of space to sing. The resulting sound has a warm, organic feel, which is the perfect compliment for Etana’s voice.
Lyrically, the songs are a mix of positivity and affirmation. “Queen” has a heavy reggae beat, and has Etana declaring:
“They’ll be surprised when this lioness roar
I am the queen of the concrete jungle
Lion on the scene, it’s dangerous oh
I’m watching even when you think I’m sleeping
It’s gonna be too late when you see me coming
Cause when the time is right
All my enemies will be weeping”
On “Strongest,” she urges a friend to pick their head up, because “only the srtongest of the strong will survive/And you got to be the fittest of the fit to survive.” The message of “Smile” is that life is hard, so there’s nothing left but to smile. “Better Tomorrow” imagines a world without suffering. The positivity is all grounded in a realization that life isn’t easy, but that the best way to fight against the things that are wrong with the world is to focus on what’s good. It’s a powerful message, and one that you can’t help but find uplifting.
As good as most of the music is on “Better Tomorrow,” there were a few points where things got too schmaltzy for my tastes. The alto sax on “Beautiful Day,” for example, or the contemporary Christian vibe of “The Prayer.” It’s easy to overlook these missteps when they are followed by a reggae soul song as perfect as “Silly,” where Etana complains that “Love, stop making a fool out of me.”
“Better Tomorrow” showcases the amazing talent that is Etana. She has a voice like honey, she has empowering lyrics, and she’s backed by solid production. If you are looking for music to put you in a good mood and remind you that there is always a silver lining, Etana’s got you covered.