A restless yearning for personal authenticity served as the catalyst for Nao Yoshioka to relocate herself to the U.S. in 2018, to make her name in the place where soul and R&B had originated. The result is her fourth album Undeniable, out now via Sweet Soul Records. This collection celebrates that universal existential moment of coming back home to the core of oneself, rediscovering one’s own intrinsic and undeniable true nature after losing it somewhere along the way.
With this universally relatable concept of “undeniable” as the starting point, the larger message was broken into smaller themes. Each track represents a distinctive component of that undeniable true self that Nao could no longer deny. For example, “Boundaries” is an upbeat track encouraging us to transcend the social divides that confine us and to surpass our own self-imposed limitations that keep us from becoming who we want to be; “Liberation” a song about how fear compels us to make mistakes in life, with a powerful message that we should not live fearing our future, but rather, live like we have already achieved it in order to liberate ourselves from fear; “Celebrate” a song about celebrating diversity of love, and accepting one’s differences as strengths: and “Up and Away” an empowering track about starting over fresh in a new place. Fourteen tracks, each celebrating a unique avenue of self-rediscovery.
In addition to bringing on key collaborators from her last album like Musicman Ty, producer of “I Love When” and Khari Mateen (Jill Scott, The Roots) back at the engineering helm, Undeniable adds King of Indie Soul, Eric Roberson, Lorenzo Johnson (Ledisi, Maysa), Chris Dave and The Drumhedz keyboardist Daniel Crawford, and A Touch of Jazz production team alumni and Grammy-winning producer Vidal Davis (Ne-yo, Usher) to the lineup. The album also features young and upcoming producers/artists like Devin Morrison and Kiah Victoria.
While the previous album only used track sound, this one combines live instrumentation and gritty digital beats. Vocal and instrumental elements were recorded live at the legendary MilkBoy the Studio in Philadelphia, a site that is historically relevant as the epicenter of the neo-soul movement of the early 2000’s, and was originally opened by SalSoul cellist and Philly Soul legend Larry Gold. Several tracks were reconstructed live in The Studio with members of Philly favorite duo Killiam Shakespeare and some string arrangements composed by Larry Gold himself.
Nao explained, “Philadelphia is a very special place for me because it’s the first city that I performed in when I came to the United States as a professional artist. Since then, I always work with Philly musicians whenever I perform in the United States, so I feel there is a strong connection. In Philadelphia, I love the musicians. I love the sound. And recording at The Studio is one of the things I’ve always wanted to do. And it’s finally happened.”
Undeniable is now available for streaming via Spotify and Apple Music.