“I’ll be Damned” is an exercise in tension. The Brooklyn-based r & b up and comer Russell Elliot weaves a self portrait of a man devastated and confused–and how often those feelings can commingle and morph into a seething, indignant anger. But more often than not, that anger is internalized–used as a means to guilt ourselves that spins us further into our heads. “I’ll be Damned” is an exorcism of these feelings, an airing-out if these grievances, both against self and a former lover but in such heartbreakingly specific ways.

“I’ll be Damned,” make no mistake, is a deeply angry and frustrated song. But that pent up rage is such clearly manifested hurt and shame for having cared for a person who didn’t value the singer, nor even saw fit to “have his back.” The hurts and grievances alluded to in the lyrics aren’t even directed explicitly at the loss of the relationship itself, but at the feelings of the presence of an imbalanced respect. “I might not have been good for you but I was good to you/I might not be right for you but I made right for you when you needed someone.” The vocal virtuoso performance deftly maneuvers these charged lyrics into a reserved yearning.

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Russell Elliot