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Roy Woods, OVO Artist: Waking At Dawn (Album Summary)
Who is Roy Woods?
Roy Woods is a 20 year old artist signed to OVO. His music is eerie, soft and synth-driven, showing off his soaring vocals. Click here to read about his first studio album, Exis (2015).
Waking At Dawn is certainly more polished than Exis, and allows Spencer to further develop his distinctive sound, with powerful ballads like Sonic Boom, and the contrastingly upbeat, Drake-inspired tune Gwan Big Up Urself.
In Waking At Dawn, Woods has definitely found a slightly more commercial sound, but has not lost his roots, still including Jamaican patois into his lyrics and alluding to his internal sadness and hedonistic behaviours.
1. Sonic Boom
Spencer kickstarts his second studio album with the mellow but indignant song that is undeniably nocturnal sounding, with a PartyNextDoor-esque vibe. He whispers "1:44AM, almost done" in the introduction, showing that he is working late and hence is totally dedicated to recording his music.
The first verse is very hedonistic. He sings "I could pop another pill tonight, even though I don't really want to", very much showing that he uses drugs (ecstasy or xanax here) to escape his real-life problems. He knows that popping the pill will bring him a night of fun, but that he will feel the repercussions and regret then next day when he is back to is baseline.This is followed by "I don't need much, I just wanna get a buzz from the blunt, sipping beverage here on my own". Although the sound of this album is less introspective and dreamy than that of Exis, it also reveals a darker side of Roy Woods that we didn't see in Exis.
The hook is clever, with the line "she ain't outdoors, but her heart's as cold as is, as is, as is..". By this, Woods means that his girl isn't in the cold weather but might as well be, because her heart is as cold as it would be if she was. However, "is" also means "ice" in Swedish, so it is possible that Woods is playing with words.
Roy Woods does have a fantastic voice, which he shows off with his spacey vocals in the outro, barely discernible. He sings "baby, I'm trying to respond..as is, as is, baby I'm falling away from you".
2. You Love It
This song is unapologetically sex-focused. Woods sings "we had it going on when you putting on your bra...I know you really want me to come in it though"; his girlfriend is getting dressed and maybe doesn't want to be physical with him, but he's convinced she still wants it. The lyrics "you know that I want you, and you love it" sum up his feelings towards the relationship.
The second verse takes a turn for the worse, and Woods explains that he has "given up his happiness" for her and that they are no longer together. He is quite pragmatic about the situation and says "if it's love then I see you again, if it's not then you mess with your friends", meaning that she will return to him if she truly values the relationship, and if she doesn't, he doesn't mind losing her to clubbing and messing with her girlfriends.
In the outro, Roy softly sings "it'll change when you need me", meaning that her current lover is currently in the way, meaning that she doesn't truly need Woods. He believes that, in time, she will be ready to commit to him.
Gwan Big Up Urself
3. Gwan Big Up Urself
The favourite of many fans, Gwan Big Up Urself is reckless and sweet and calls out to the summer of 2016. In this song, Roy Woods is able to totally explore his Jamaican side, and infuses the dancehall track with playful patois. In the hook he sings "come thru mi waan you freak me", which means "come over, I want you to have sex with me".
In the first verse, Woods uses the idea of dancing as a metaphor for sex. He tells his girl "farwad yuh zeen", which means "move forward, do you understand?". The second verse is similarly sexual by nature, with the lyrics "baby, I wanna see what's finna gwaan on tonight" (baby, I want to know what's happening tonight), and "you like what you see? guess what, so do I".
The chilled outro conveys the message of the song - Woods softly sings "cuz the way you please me, you need to gwan and big up urself now", which means something along the lines of "the way you pleasure me, you need to praise yourself!". He is very attracted to his girl's body, as he sings about in the entirety of Gwan Big Up Urself, but
4. How I Feel
This is by far my favourite song on Waking At Dawn and is a musical masterpiece. It starts with a piano-type synth and then effortless opens up to Woods' beautiful vocals. He sings "you wonder why I'm here, I won't be back for long", announcing that he won't be visiting Ontario again anytime soon, as he is busy with his Summer Sixteen tour. He's beginning his path to stardom with OVO and is confident, yet his tone is too soft for him to ever seem arrogant. In addition, he is clearly grateful of his newfound fame.
In the chorus, Woods speaks "it's OVO right now, it's UTU right now". OVO is a record label that stands for October's Very Own, and it includes Drake's crew and other label signees, among whom Woods is one of the youngest members. It is common for OVO signees to adopt their own acronyms to let themselves stand out - Roy Woods and his crew have chosen UTU, standing for Unlock The Underground. By shouting out OVO and UTU, Woods is acknowledging that he owes all his success to OVO, the label itself, but is also keen to display that he belongs to a tough niche within the mainstream label. He is grateful to be associated with artists like Drake, but also doesn't want to be entirely associated with them, as his sound is different. Instead, he loyally sticks with the UTU collective within OVO. which includes other Canadian rappers like Tripsixx.
In the outro, Woods hows that he is independent and does not need his girl to be following him, with the lyrics "Girl I'll be better, I'll be better... I don't need you to call". Woods has found a lifestyle that suits him and makes him happy, but he is still an inherently depressive person who has attempted suicide before. That said, he is feeling fine at the moment and is on the come-up (happiness wise), so he wants to be left to his own devices. He's taking over the city slowly and surely ("I'm living better in the city right now, right now..").
The title How I Feel relates to all of this, and encapsulates the idea that Woods is doing just fine. He is not euphoric, nor is he depressed; he's deeply grateful of his success but realises that he still has a lot to sort out in his life, with his crew and his hometown. He's disinterested in his girlfriend and seems quite aloof towards his day one crew in Ontario, reluctant to spent much time away from his OVO/UTU squad.
5. Down Girl
This song describes Roy Woods eyeing up the most attractive girl in the club and features some tastefully-placed patois. It's centered around intoxication, with lyrics like "clique turnt up, all burnt up" (alluding to weed, of course). He sings "bare gyal a pree something from me, they're all whining" (all these girls are looking for something from me, they're all grinding), telling us that he's popular with the girls in the club.
Despite enjoying her looks, Woods does not truly want to be with this girl, and goes on to say "I want a girl I can freak on a weekday, I want a girl that's always down to come see me". This sounds like he may want more than the casual hook-up that the she will provide him with. Instead, he longs for an intimate relationship, in which he can smoke weed with his girl and have sex with her on weekdays.
The bridge sums up all that Woods is conveying in this song. The lyrics "just 'cause you roll with me don't mean you with me"; just because he goes clubbing and smokes weed with this girl doesn't mean that they're a thing, nor does he want her to believe that they are. He ends it with the harsh words "oh, you ain't the girl that this young nigga's needing".
Switch is full of syrupy, gorgeous vocals and melancholy lyrics. Only three minutes long, it delivers the clear message that Roy Woods has no time for people who are "switching on him", or, in other words, coming into his life solely because of his growth and fame. He is particularly addressing the people that he has known for his entire life in Toronto, but who have only recently become interested in entering his life. He considers them fake and money-grabbing.
In the first verse, Woods tells his girl "It's not the same anymore, look me in the eyes and say you know me"; Woods has notices his own growth and realises that he will never be the same youngster that he was before his fame. He is still loyal to Toronto and his original crew, but cannot relate to them in the same way that he did before, as his work has distanced him from them and has caused them to be on different levels, in terms of money and social status.
He clearly feels a fair amount of anger towards those who dismissed him in the past but have suddenly become interested in his music; he said "back then I drop a track and they ignore me", indicated that he was on the grind for years before he broke through, posting tracks on sites where they were ignored and even mocked by his friends.
Switch's message is clearest when Woods angrily sings "where was they at way back? Couches where I slept at? Never am I gon go back, for years I had my own back". He adds that he is "still looking for closure", perhaps hinting that he expects an apology from those who never took his musical ability seriously back in the day.
Roy Woods: "I’ve been freestyling since I was around 14, when I used to go to the YMCA Downtown in Brampton every Saturday night, and I started dropping music when I was 16."
The hook's line "they all wanna switch on me" is sung painfully by Woods. He has been forced to cut out these toxic fake friends, based on the fact that they didn't support him when he needed help and now expect to be allowed to slide into his fame and money. Visiting home means dealing with these people, and he's tired of it.
7. Got Me
Woods' harsh vocal delivery in Got Me could be seen as an ode to Michael Jackson. He feels strongly attached to his girl and wants to tell the whole world. As a lone soul, he also seems slightly worried at his level of emotional dependence, but he is mainly rejoicing at their relationship.
He tells her "tag me in that pic, cos baby you got me"; he is proud to have her and wants to display their relationship online, as is commonly done by young couples these days. Then, he sings "these girls all want me, I ignore these soft tings" - his use of popular patois is attractive to the listener. He says his girl needs him "like a coffee", suggesting he is as addictive as caffeine.
The pre-hook "when you come over, text me when you're sober" is genuine and shows that he really cares for his girl. Instead of just wanting her body, he wants to get to know her on sober terms after they've hooked up.
Woods is really dropping his guard in Got Me, as he is often aloof and likes to convey that he doesn't need a girl in virtually all of his other songs. He even sings "got me looking at my phone like is you there?", which some could say makes him look overly attached. This is refreshing, as the OVO squad love to sing about all the girls that chase after them and their fame.
It is sweet that Woods has found such a high caliber of love with his girl. He finishes Got Me with the pleading repetition of "please don't stop, girl don't stop it". He is aware that he's putting his heart on the chopping board, but as an innate pleasure-seeker, he's going to ride this relationship out and enjoy all the high points as they come.
Why is a resonating and downbeat track in Waking At Dawn. In this song, Roy Woods finds himself questioning his relationship with his girlfriend. He introduces the song with "we'll get high, 4:27 in the night", clearly playing with the concept of 4:20 being the classic time to smoke weed. He dances around sexual metaphors with the line "I throw my hook into your sea while it's flooding my bed".
The chorus tells us that Woods is on the brink of losing his girl, with the agonised lyrics "but this time I wanna know why, I can't sleep without you to my right". He is wondering why this breakup is much harder than previous once he has experienced, and why he cannot become cold to his ex. Instead of detaching, he still has feelings for her and misses her.
The outro shows that they have ended their relationship, and that Woods feels remorse at hurting her. He rushedly sings "I'm sorry for too much, I'm sorry for too much..". It's an uncomfortable end to the song and offers no closure to the listener, just as Woods and his girl have had no closure. Woods still misses her intensely and feels regretful that he wasn't able to properly show her that he's sorry.
Woods tells his girl that he is not ready to settle down, so would rather avoid her than come back into her life, since he will only drive her crazy. He sings "I don't want to be the menace...", aware that he is a disaster to the woman's' emotional state.
His life is far too wild and hedonistic for her; he says "so what, if I put weed in my car and I roll a purple cup". He enjoys weed and lean and is irritated that she disapproves of his lifestyle.
Woods reveals his darker side to us in the second verse, singing "feel I should pull out the revolver, it's fucked how I've been feeling suicidal". He goes on to make the statement "I'm still my only rival". By this, he is saying that he is unaffected by his haters and that he is his own worst enemy.
© 2016 Lucy