Neon Dreams is not easily pigeon-holed by any one genre or style. But the one thing that unites the Halifax-based duo’s music is energy: the unadulterated, unconstrained, and unashamed outpouring of emotion present in every chord, every word, every beat of the drum.
That energy is turned to the max in Neon Dreams’ latest release, the catchy and ebullient “Say It Loud”. The song begins as a sort of aspirational serenade, a love song for two. But by its end, it endorses a different sort of love—an all-encompassing, world-embracing love for humanity. It’s not just a serenade; it’s a celebration.
That’s not to say that the song is saccharine or inauthentic. That’s a bane of positive songs that “Say It Loud” avoids. Despite its upbeat spirit, the song begins with thoughtfulness and uncertainty. Its opening line, the inquisitive “Is there somewhere that you want to be?”, has the air of a romance in disarray—of anxiety, of an absence of purpose. The singer wants his partner to be happy, but doesn’t want to force it upon them. Just before the chorus, he implores, “You don’t wanna hurt me, just say it. / It’s gonna hurt me if you don’t say it now.” It’s a moment of vulnerability that escaped me on the first listen, but afterwards enhanced the song greatly. The singer is anxious, pure and simple. He wants to know the desires in his partner’s heart—but asking for them means putting his own heart on the line.
And then it happens: the “Say It Loud” hits its chorus, and opens it arms to the world. The burden of uncertainty lifts. And suddenly the song seems to ask that rhetorical question—a question common to Neon Dreams’ best works, including “High School Dropout”: why not? Why not do crazy things? Why not be in love? Why not spread that love around? In fact, why not spread it around the world? By the second “say it out loud,” it’s clear that the message isn’t just directed towards the silent partner, but to all listeners, everywhere.
The internationalism of their message is emphasized by an additional singer: South African artist Mthandazo Gatya. Gatya’s performance is magical. As Neon Dreams’s vocalist Frank Kadillac puts it, “This guy's voice sounded like it was the earth singing.” His deep, expressive singing is almost spiritual: a sermon to the world.
In less than three minutes, “Say It Loud” transforms itself. First, it’s uncertain; then, it brims with confidence and cheer. First, it’s personal; then, its message is universal. It’s impossible to finish the song without smiling—and, perhaps, without feeling a little transformed too.
Written by Alex Figueiredo