Nao - And Then Life Was Beautiful review: a cosier sound

Nao  (Lillie Eiger)
Nao (Lillie Eiger)

Another day, another musician reacting creatively to months in lockdown. East London singer-producer Néo “Nao” Joshua has been through some big changes since you know what, not least the arrival of a baby daughter, who was strapped to her chest while she recorded this third album’s feminist Lianne La Havas duet, Woman. She also realised that she was exhausted after years of touring as well as Brit, Grammy and Mercury nominations, as detailed on Burn Out. “We ain’t rushing no more, we got what we came for,” she sings over crisp electronic beats. She has since revealed that she won’t be going on tour for this release.

Overall, though, she’s in a positive frame of mind. On the title track she sings that: “Change came like a hurricane/2020 hit us differently,” and concludes that yes, life is beautiful. This simplifying of her outlook extends to a more organic sound that leaves behind the space-age electro funk of her early work. Her voice is still a remarkable thing, high and feline, but it sounds less striking over the more conventional backing of the piano ballad Wait.

Glad That You’re Gone layers its harmonies over an easygoing guitar line. She also has an emotional closing song called Amazing Grace, but it isn’t quite that traditional – it’s a gospel-tinged slowie that nods to the hymn in the lyrics. It sounds like she’s settling down, which has made her sound cosier – not so exciting, but a necessary adaptation.