Some songs possess this strangely uplifting power; it’s as if the minute you pop your headphones in, the conjuring commences. All your previous trials, tribulations and worries disappear with the roll of that first enchanting piano key, the sound of that first melodic hum and the imagery of that very first line. Quelle Chris and Chris Keys’ new song, “Sudden Death,” released on Feb. 4, does this to a T—and somehow, accomplishes much, much more.
“Sudden Death” is the wave of relief that washes over you after you’ve wiped your tears following an outpouring of emotion; it’s the sun poking through the ominously grey clouds on a bone-chilling February day; it’s 10 hours of sleep after three days of insomnia. I want to explain how happy “Sudden Death” makes me, but words don’t seem to do its inherent magic justice. The production is a soulful deluge of rolling piano chords executed with a smile by Chris Keys, which Quelle catches with a full head of harmonic steam. Singing in what feels like 10 different voices, ranging from a high-pitched whistle to a deep rumble, Quelle repeats a handful of times, “It can’t all be all sudden death / We’re so much different than the rest / Just clear that desktop start fresh / Just let your seat back take a breath / You’ll find it’s worth it, ‘cause life ain’t perfect.” It’s simple. It’s exponentially uplifting. And in classic Quelle Chris fashion, it’s got this unique creative quirk to it, like Madlib’s Quasimoto and Erykah Badu took hallucinogenic drugs and locked themselves in a recording studio for 48 hours. But even this doesn’t do it justice—Quelle’s distinctive style is so original that although he’s never ventured into these waters of eccentric neo-soul before (if that’s what you’d like to call “Sudden Death”), you can still feel his trademark ingenuity ringing through the song’s framework.
While “Sudden Death” is a joy in and of itself, the music video only adds to its airs. There’s a tongue-in-cheek humor to the “dead” bodies littering the set of each shot, as Quelle snaps and dances to his own music in a pair of buoyant purple pants and a fanny pack. He sings through an intertwined jungle of deceased arms, only his upside-down mouth visible through the pile of bodies; he and a passed out person bob their heads back and forth basking in the glow of a red light in the backseat of a car; Quelle capers through an aisle of an overstocked store looking eternally at peace as the cashier lies motionless, suffering from the song’s “sudden death.” While describing the music video in words makes it seem somewhat baleful, its execution paired with the unadulterated joy of the music combine to produce what’s nothing less than a playful exclamation of solace.
As previously stated, “Sudden Death” is publicly new territory for Quelle Chris, but really feels like an oddball side project he’s more than familiar with. Artists are known to make countless songs spanning a range of genres that never see the light of day, leading fans and critics to label them as auteurs of a specific niche; in reality, the style of music they hone into on public releases may only be a small slice of their creative pie. “Sudden Death” reveals yet another side of Quelle Chris, which is as warm and exuberant as he’s ever displayed.
I can’t stop playing and singing along to “Sudden Death.” I’ve even named a recently-made playlist “Purple Pants” in honor of Quelle’s wardrobe in the music video. The nearly-four-minute incantation of positivity just makes me exponentially happier with each repeat listen. With this new single, the Detroit artist accomplishes an elated jaunt to which he just can’t stop humming the tune to—and neither can I.