Daniel Caesar, the balladeer whose serene R&B tracks have been streamed hundreds of millions of times even though he is not signed to a major label, released a new album without warning on Thursday at midnight. Case Study 01 includes contributions from Pharrell Williams and John Mayer. It marks Caesar’s first full-length since 2017’s Freudian.
The album’s first single is “Love Again,” a duet with the golden-voiced R&B veteran Brandy. Leading with this track is a savvy move on Caesar’s part, since duets played a crucial role in his mainstream breakthrough. The singer’s first hit was “Get You,” a tranquil back-and-forth with Kali Uchis. He followed that with the breathy “Best Part,” which performed even better on the charts. Both those tracks were eventually certified platinum by the RIAA; they still get more than 500 combined spins a week at radio to this day. Freudian also contained two more male-female duets — with Syd and Charlotte Day Wilson, respectively.
Caesar has mostly been quiet since Freudian, content to tour and watch his stream counts pile up. Last year he released “Who Hurt You,” a one-off that hinted at a new direction — this song was lusty and demanding, with a drum tone that evoked Prince. “Strange new addictions picked up on the road/Changed my opinions and changed up my flows,” he sang. That track is not on Case Study 01. Instead, he sticks closely to the Freudian flows that brought Caesar success on the streaming services and in the radio format known as “Adult R&B.”