Canadian R&B singer climbs up billboard charts

Daniel Caesar performs on stage at “The Come Up Show.” Caesar is a Canadian R&B singer that became famous through posting his material on online platforms like SoundCloud, Youtube and Spotify. Some of his major hits include “Get You,” “Japanese Denim” and “Best Part.”

Genesis Hansen Columnist

Daniel Caesar subverts pop music expectations, thousands of online views.

With the globalization of the 21st century, it is now easier than ever to rise to fame with the click of a button. Ashton Simmonds, better known as Daniel Caesar, is a 23-year-old Canadian rhythm and blues singer, who started sharing his work via online mediums like SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify. 

“(Toronto artists) are bringing real things regular people experience,” Daniel said in an interview with BuzzFeed’s Tanya Chen. “Not just goons. That’s why people mess with it.”

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With rising prominence in America, he recently released an album in August called “Freudian”. This album bumped him up to the 25th spot on the Billboard 200, and contains one of his more popular pieces called “Get You”. 

He has 3.54k plays on SoundCloud, and 8,285,595 views on YouTube.

Soul in Stereo describes the album as “pretty mature song writing from an artist who is still finding his voice.” 

Caesar released a song called “Japanese Denim” last year on Apple Music. 

“His breakout single ‘Get You’ amassed over 10 million streams on Apple Music since its October 2016 release,” according to Forbes Magazine. 

Born in Toronto, Canada, Caesar felt empowered by Drake and influenced by Chance the Rapper.

Ryan Biesack is an instructor of music at Oregon State University. He is the director of Jazz ensembles and also teaches drum lessons and history of pop music classes.

“Daniel paints a picture of mixed emotion throughout the song and doesn’t sound contrived or clever, it just sounds sincere and autobiographical,” Biesack said.

Japanese denim is a selvedge material used to make jeans that can literally last a lifetime, due to the way it’s woven. This fabric is carefully crafted and takes artistic detail and patience. By alluding his feelings of his lover to this fabric, he is stating that he is willing and able to put in the time and effort it takes to develop the love within the relationship. 

We see this more clearly in the passage, “My blue jeans will last me all my life.”  As any good lyricist knows, these words mean more than the direct meaning. 

Steven Zielke is the Patricia Valian Research professor of music, the associate director of School Arts and Communications and the director of choral studies at OSU. 

“Relating love to Japanese Denim jeans creates a feeling of eternal casualness, a comfortable relationship,” Zielke said.

Since jeans are typically worn in a casual setting, we can understand that Caesar is relaxed and feels at ease with his love.

In the first few lines of the song we see a juxtaposition of things he will and will not do, we sense the gravity of importance that this person has in Caesar’s life. The lyrics read,“ I don’t like to drink, I don’t like to think f*** that, woahhh. But I’ll ponder you.” 

This passage shows that Caesar is accustomed to denying reality and running away from situations in which  he must be engaged, but in the instance of this individual, he accepts the reality that love has placed him in, and embraces his feelings warmly. 

Zielke doesn’t actively search for new music and tends to listen to classic rock music like The Sticks, Foreigner and Kansas. But that didn’t stop him from finding a connection with Japanese Denim. 

“His song is relevant to my life now,” Zielke said.

Love has this tendency to change some aspect of who we are.

“Like Tom York from Radiohead, [Caesar’s] music is accessible to everyone in his audience,” Zielke said.

Caesar doesn’t seem to be any exception to the trials of love, which is comforting to those who have shared his experience.

Jason Kummerman is the president of the OSU Outspoken male acapella group. 

“The tone of his songs are very soft-spoken in conjunction with the romantic attitude he displays,” Kummerman said in an email. 

Caesar not only possesses the artistic skill of lyrical grace, he also makes his music accessible to his listeners by playing with traditional conventions. 

“Swing tone subverts the pop music expectation,” Zielke said. 

This subversion adds a different thread of artistic value to his work. 

“The way he uses gospel music keeps the tradition of R&B, and maintains it’s a classical music form,” said Zielke. “[Daniel] infuses a swing music groove with simple instruments. It makes the song timeless and creates an

old-school feeling.”

“Japanese Denim” is a significant song because it contains dualities. For instance, there are sections of the song that follow traditional swing instruments and deliver a groove to the song. There are also sections of the song that deflate the instrumental volume and isolate the sound of the song. 

“Stripping the music down to just the voice and the rhythm is a technique that changes the density of the song to amplify the lyrical message,” Biesack said.

Caesar’s style may not be original, but his twist on R&B conventions is refreshing in modern music.

“Japanese Denim has lyrics that are dynamically involved with his emotions and thoughts, and with what he wants romantically,” Kummerman said in an email. 

Kummerman refers to Caesar, in this song in particular, as a combination of Khalid, Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean, for he embodies a “modern blues” vibe. 

”Releasing music on the internet takes away the middle man, allowing fans to actively participate in music,” Biesack said. 

Thanks to the internet boom of the 21st century, artists like Daniel Caesar are more accessible to listeners around the world.