The Context – As a keystone metropolis of North America, it is no surprise that Toronto consistently produces talent flooding the music industry and the charts. Toronto is much more than the birthplace of 20th century classical piano savant Glenn Gould as today’s pop and hip-hop’s finest—including the likes of Shawn Mendes, Alessia Cara, Majid Jordan, Daniel Caesar, Drake, and The Weeknd—call the Six their home. Shantel May, affectionately dubbed the “Scarborough Songbird” by music blogger Armon Sadler, is poised to join the aforementioned elite class of contemporary Canadian musicians.
The eastern Toronto native quickly rose to viral fame on SoundCloud as she showcased her powerful vocal repertoire. May’s polished R&B sound caught the attention of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85 of fellow Toronto act dvsn. The R&B/soul duo signed May on as a backup singer on their world tour with Drake, but soon gave the budding star her first notable feature on dvsn’s passionate closing track “…Again” on 2020’s A Muse In Her Feelings.
The Content – “No Ratings”—with its angered intro transitioning into a sensual, yet explicative R&B tune about complicated relationships—opens May’s debut EP Don’t Let Them See You Cry. The April 2020 single “It’s Better This Way” follows up the smooth intro with another slick, minimally produced track reflecting on lost love. “Until I Say So,” a June 2020 single produced by dvsn’s Nineteen85, is a sweet, early 2000s-sounding track strongly displaying May’s vocals with a mediocre feature from Buffalo rapper Westside Gunn. May then includes another single from November 2020 in “Don’t Wanna Pretend”—a highly emotive piece backed again by complimentary laidback beats from Nineteen85.
“Waiting” is perhaps the most impressive selection on the EP as Shantel seamlessly transitions from her typical vocal tone to a lovely higher register in the chorus. Further, the crooning is bookended by a rather unique, glitchy drone that works well in juxtaposition to the crisp vocals. On “Yours,” May brings sensuality packed with a slick, seemingly ethereal backdrop. May closes the record with a return to the track that started it all: 2018’s sexy and empowering “Back n Forth.”
The Skinny – On Don’t Let Them See You Cry, Shantel May reminds listeners of her R&B savvy on the four previously released singles comprising the EP. However, May’s three new releases in “No Ratings,” “Waiting,” and “Yours” underscore a more seasoned versatility where her exceptional vocals compete with rather rough, yet calculated production. The dichotomy sets a beautiful balance that reimagines May’s early-2000s diva sound with a sexy lyrical and musical edge. Don’t Let Them See You Cry is a brilliant sample that may possibly set the stage for May’s superstardom beyond the Canadian border.
The Rating – 7.2/10
Don’t Let Them See You Cry
- No Ratings
- It’s Better This Way
- Until I Say So (feat. Westside Gunn)
- Don’t Wanna Pretend
- Back n Forth