Ever since they burst into the proverbial limelight almost 10 years ago, sisters Ivana and Jessica Nwokike have worked to hone a particular sound. The duo — whose YouTube covers of Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Drake, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and others have gone viral and amassed millions of views — have had a knack for putting their own twist on a multitude of genres.
“We always made a point to make whatever cover we were doing something that was unique to us,” they said in feature with Pigeons and Planes in 2017. “There was always this kind of ’90s-esque feel to everything. And at that point, it seemed like ‘that’s your sound.'”
Since their first EP 00 Till Escape dropped in 2015, the sisters have steadily released high-quality singles, and now a full-length project, that put a ’90s spin on contemporary R&B sounds. The result, Silk Canvas, is a vibrant album that will undoubtedly finish among 2018’s best.
Besides the ’90s influence in the vocals/lyrics, Silk Canvas indulges heavily in garage/house and other electronic-R&B influences (I often found myself comparing their sound to what an artist like Brandy would sound like if paired with contemporary electronic producers, e.g. Disclosure). These are perhaps most evident on the songs “Through Enough” and “Touch the Floor,” but also show up in tracks like “Another Lover” (which also contains Afrobeat influence), “My Love,” and “Best Believe.” Their success in marrying these genres together is comparable to that same creativity they displayed in their early YouTube days, and is part of what makes these singles, as well as the rest of this project, so enjoyable.
But it would be a mistake to merely focus on their stylistic influences and not lend any attention to just how in-sync these two sisters are. The listener can hear the camaraderie throughout the project. Their harmony and coordination is something special, especially in a musical climate where not every union of voices or personalities results in heavenly sounds. Their harmonies are not just a result of mere musical cohesion but also a testament to their rock-solid bond of sisterhood. A bond that traces back to their growing up together in the U.S. and Nigeria, and their days of covering their favorite artists together on YouTube, and their performing together as VanJess at high school talent shows, and, now, their step forward toward imminent stardom.
In the same feature by Pigeons & Planes, Jessica said of the VanJess partnership: “Why just sing by yourself when you can create all sorts of magical sounds with two voices?” If nothing else, this album is exactly that: two voices creating magical sounds.