DJ, producer, and scientist Jayda G makes effervescent dance music with a wealth of deeper meaning. On her second album, Guy, she explores grief and renewal through ambrosial disco, soul, and dance-pop dedicated to her father, William Richard Guy, who passed away when she was 10. Understanding the extent of his illness, William documented his life in several journals and 11 hours of video interviews with Jayda’s older sister. Roughly 20 years after his death, Guy embarks on a journey of danceable self-discovery that rides this high tide of familial love and memory. Between sharp whirs of fast-forwarding tape, William’s recollections form the basis for Jayda’s songs, which balance catharsis with her allegiance to the boogie.

Dance music carries people through the darkest of times, and Guy’s early tracks outline stories of resilience and empowerment. “Scars” distills William’s memories of standing up to childhood bullies through synth-pop that showcases some of Jayda G’s best singing to date. Her vocals on 2019’s Significant Changes often sounded as if she had recorded them as far away from the mic as possible. Now, the message of redemption bursts through an undercurrent of lyrical melancholy: “And I’ve got scars/And I’m burning and exploding,” she sings, bubbly and full of hope. “Blue Lights” is grounded in her father’s memories of dodging cops during the 1968 race riots in Washington, D.C., becoming a bearing line for Jayda G to retrace her hereditary sense of survival. In connecting to her father’s past, she finds solace, purpose, and fearlessness in the present.

She also injects Guy with the unbreakable positivity that inspired William to record his stories in the first place. “Heads or Tails” begins with a delicious smattering of drum’n’bass, followed by punching keys and claps that swirl in anticipation of a daydreamy, prescriptive chorus: “Hold it, toke it, pass it ’round/Rollin’ backseat windows down.” These reminders to relish in life’s fleeting joys aren’t there to distract from the pain throughout Guy. They’re there to hold its fragmented pieces together, like a glittering disco ball. Jayda’s dance fever boils over on “Sapphires of Gold,” where she spins her lust for life into a golden thread of pop bliss. Chanting “I have fallen in love with living,” her vocals smudge like sweated-out makeup in the music’s tropically humid atmosphere.

Jayda G has always taken inspiration from life. She holds a degree in environmental toxicology, and on Significant Changes, she paired odes to oceans and orcas with splashes of disco and house. Guy represents Jayda’s next phase of alchemizing personal knowledge into dance music, though you won’t find anything quite like “Both of Us” here. The production on Guy is more understated and elusive, and at times the memories get obscured in the mist. The ’80s-inspired “Your Thoughts” presents the album’s most direct statement of intent, but a repetitive and overworked structure depletes its energy reserves. And the laid-back, Toro y Moi-esque shuffle of “Lonely Back in O,” about William’s stationing in Thailand during the Vietnam War, feels a bit too nebulous to translate as dance music or historical testimony.

On Guy, personal reconciliation takes priority over satiating the club crowd. The tragic, gorgeous closer “15 Foot,” which tells the story of Jayda’s final goodbye to her father, lands like an anchor in the chest. The music, however, is weightless: a delicate lattice accented by acoustic guitar, chimes, and trembling strings. The unifying properties of Jayda G’s sumptuous, aquatic dance-pop—and the new emphasis on voice—brings her audience close to her experience, whether or not you know the grief of losing a parent during childhood. On Guy, she takes time to steady herself to her inner metronome, finding her voice with her dad’s help.

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Jayda G: Guy