Emotion exactly isn’t a new subject in the world of pop music, but when it’s captured in an angelic manner by a casual crooner, it feels particularly special and always renewed in relevancy. Manny Cabo tries his hand at performing an iconic song in the new single “Paint the Gray,” written by Bonnie Warren and Clayton Jones, that immediately caught my interest when I received a copy just a week ago, and despite the mountains of competition this work faces right now, it could be among the smarter tracks of its kind to land on my desk this season. “Paint the Gray” is an opulently arranged and tempo-drive song that doesn’t overstate its harmonies but instead catalyzes them into deeper messages of kinship a lot of us could benefit from hearing in 2023, and it’s a great way of getting to know its performer as well.
The instruments in this single are soft and gently applied to create an arrangement of melodies neither inefficient nor offensively minimalistic – in all actuality, their mild indulgences are some of the better attributes it has to offer. There’s been so much alternative pop bombarding the mainstream R&B charts in the past couple of years that finding something born of a more purist fabric in the pop lexicon is awesome, especially if you’re partial to straightforward songcraft like I am.
One of the best elements in “Paint the Gray” is its simple construction, which proves once and for all that you don’t need a lot of frills to sound sophisticated and personal in any genre.
This lead vocal is quite reminiscent of the old school in R&B more than pop specifically, but I would stop short of saying that Cabo is drawing direct inspiration from anything in the retro styles a lot of his peers are at the moment. There’s just too much unforced passion, and too much of a raw emotional connection between artist and medium in this piece for me to assume that its origins start and end with a desire to craft a smart throwback, no matter how noble a cause that could be framed as. “Paint the Gray” begs for us to examine the credibility of its sentiments through the lens of its own harmonies, and not those of another artist’s sound many decades after the fact.
If you’ve been trying to locate an accessible alternative to the mainstream adult-contemporary and neo-groove anthems dominating much of the FM dial in 2023, Manny Cabo might be just the man you’ll want to go see before the spring has concluded. His new single “Paint the Gray” is a lot like its title would suggest it could be, though it lacks the compositional containment often separating the warmth of a track’s narrative from the audience it was designed to connect with the most. Cabo has a big heart behind these harmonies, and when he’s singing for us in this single, it’s quite clear that he chose the right time to get into the game – for both the benefit of his genre and that of the average listener in general.