Review: NoMBe’s debut album is promising for the future of R&B

NoMBe’s debut album, They Might’ve Even Loved Me, is exemplary contemporary storytelling. Its production rivals the work of veteran R&B musician Blood Orange, and its lyrics beautifully tell the story of the influential women in NoMBe’s life, including his godmother, the legendary Chaka Khan. The result is truly a work of art and is a contender for one of the best albums of the year so far.

Photo courtesy of TH3RD BRAIN Records

Born in Germany and based in Los Angeles, Noah McBeth, who performs under the moniker NoMBe, spent four years writing, producing and composing his debut album. The result is a mix of electric soul that combines the genres of jazz, funk, hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll. Each song is dedicated to a woman in his life, telling stories of heartbreak, hookups and kinship.

“It’s more stories about my mom or stories about exes or a girlfriend or a hookup or a friend,” NoMBe told Baeble Music. “It’s all these personal stories of the last couple of years that made up the album.”

On “Wait,” NoMBe recalls his middle school crush on a friend who lived next door. “I won’t wait this time, no, not now, not again,” he says in the song, fighting his fear to confess his feelings. The song “Eden” personifies love and addresses it as a person from his past, as NoMBe wrestles with the idea of falling in love again while realizing humanity’s flaws. The lyrics also reference religion and are symbolic of a man having a conversation with God, discussing lost faith and contemplating what to do next. 

Of all the 18 songs on the album, two singles that stand out are “Man Up” and “Drama.” “Man Up” sees NoMBe questioning the role men play in society, while also addressing the impact society has on men. NoMBe, who tours with an all-female band and is assisted by his all-female creative team, identifies as a feminist, telling Clash Music, “I’m trying to point out how we are often not allowed to show weakness. On the surface, it is definitely a call to action for men to step their game up and be better.”

On “Drama,” NoMBe recounts a fight he had with his girlfriend, performing and managing his private life. In the end, he deems it all to be just drama: “Ain’t nothin’ but drama,” he sings in the chorus, “I’m just playing a part/When I’m feeling the spotlight, I see nothing but stars.”

The mix of genres creates a refreshing album that keeps listeners on their toes, with the individuality of each song highlighting specific instances in his life. Amid the electric jazz and the dream pop tracks is the stunning acoustic ballad, “Rocky Horror.” Recorded in one take, the concept spawned from NoMBe’s fascination with the aesthetics of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and he considers it the most personal song he’s ever written. “I dedicate this song to my mother, Mary McBeth, and to anyone who has lost a loved one to prison of any kind,” he told Clash Music.