Music review: ‘Perfectly Imperfect,’ by Elle Varner

Elle Varner
Perfectly Imperfect

R&B/pop hooks are easy to remember and sing along with, by design. So, it’s interesting when a hook comes along that is complicated and difficult to mimic, yet so infectious that people still want to belt it out, with no regard to how horrible and off-key they sound. Think Beyonce’s “Love on Top”— one can barely stop at a traffic light these days without being subjected to someone struggling to match B’s every octave change. So, it’s a testament to the powers of newcomer Elle Varner that she has already, at this stage in her career, created a single with a challenging, high-octave hook that folks can’t seem to stop singing.

“Refill,” which is on the 23-year-old L.A. native’s major label debut, “Perfectly Imperfect,” is a mix of country fiddlin’, impressive vocal runs and slick R&B production that comes together really well. The single (which is about feeling drunk on emotion, not actual alcohol, FYI) has been out for a while, but suddenly, tons of people are walking around screaming out its chorus (”Can I get a Reeee-filllllll?”), and failing to hit all of the high notes Varner nails with ease.

That track, plus the hip-hop/R&B collaboration “Only Wanna Give It to You,” feat. J Cole, are strong, commercial offerings. The mix of those mainstream tracks and the edgier songs on the album make “Perfectly Imperfect” a pretty spectacular debut.

“Welcome Home” is a slightly gritty soul piece that explores the enduring pressures of striving for an idyllic life. Varner replaces the proverbial white picket fence with a “kitchen with an island,” but comes to the conclusion that “anything can be love and anywhere can be home.” “Damn Good Friend” is a beautiful acoustic-guitar-heavy ballad that some will recognize as the song that served as the perfect bittersweet outro music for the critically acclaimed Dee Rees film “Pariah.”

“Oh What A Night,” should satisfy anyone disappointed to learn that “Refill” isn’t a drinking song. The hook — ”Oh what a night/oh what a night/ Straight shots of Patron and a slice of lime” — is a lot simpler and more literal, but also a lot easier to sing along with, too.

Cover art for Elle Varner's album “Perfectly Imperfect.” (Courtesy of RCA)

Sarah Godfrey

Recommended Tracks

“Damn Good Friends,” “Refill,” “I Don’t Care”

Show Comments
Most Read Lifestyle



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters