This is everything. Plenty has been made of the doldrums in which the music industry has seen fit to leave recent promising female voices in R&B. Tinashe is still struggling to build on her early momentum, with several unfairly shirked releases to her name, Jhene Aiko just got the face of the most charming talent vacuum in hip hop tattooed on her arm, struggling to find a balance between the dead end collaboration with him that is Twenty88 and her own more personal trials on the ambitious but vastly overlong Trip...the list goes on. Kelela, on the other hand, has taken her sweet time.

Take Me Apart arrives just over 4 years after her breakthrough mixtape. With such a bold pause, anything less than a completely assured, commanding debut proper would have rendered her to the overhyped-and-forgotten column forevermore. Thankfully, the album we've received is more than prepared to bear that burden. By turns artfully restrained and expressive, never dragging despite its 16 tracks and near-hour-long length, this is most focused and confident R&B album in recent memory. While she may lack the immediate, identifiable generational anthem of woe and fear that is SZA's (also excellent) CTRL, Kelela doesn't need it.

The songs speak for themselves. Her vision and sense of orchestration for an ambitious album bring to mind peak Janet Jackson, Take Me Apart even at times feeling something like 2017's answer to the opus that is The Velvet Rope. Both loop in and out of human sexuality and need for connection and attention, but Kelela forgoes the skits and explanations, again, letting her music paint the picture. ‘Enough’ practically crushes the listener with the simple words, “It's not enough right now,” potentially sophomoric in the wrong hands, they sear here. Lead single ‘LMK’ is cleverly sandwiched near the exact midpoint, perking the energy back up with the catchy and familiar amidst her slower ballads - but make no mistake, there is not a dull moment here.

Before long comes ‘Blue Light’, a gliding, stressed-out ballad, immediately followed by ‘Onanon’ which boasts perhaps the catchiest chorus to be found here. This Arca production in turn leads to another, and perhaps my favorite song here, ‘Turn to Dust’, which lays Kelela nearly bare; with simple backing and simpler lyrics still, she is able to absolute devastate. It's a true testament to her presence, and to the overall unique power at hand here.

Kelela never oversteps. These are certainly songs to create a vibe, emotional or sexual – or both – with deft moves each time, true R&B in its essence, however, she never stresses a point beyond the effortless. Some are already drawing comparisons between her presentation and ability to Frank Ocean, and while the talent is tangential, Ocean's music is nothing if not painstaking, grasping for the respect he surely deserves. Kelela, however, appears to simply be. Take Me Apart doesn't feel desperate to reach for anything, it is comfortable, prepared for whatever may come, much like its bearer. Greatness hasn't sounded this natural in this arena for some time. This is everything.