Gallant has always been an acrobatic vocalist searching for the right songs. “Sleep on It” finds nourishment in the great R&B ballads of the late 1990s and early 2000s: a sprinkle of Jagged Edge’s “True Man,” a pinch of Avant’s “Separated,” essence of Marques Houston’s “Grass Is Greener.” When these songs were being cut, an acoustic guitar and an 808 were the key to emotional fireworks — and frequently, a radio hit.
“Sleep on It” opens in the middle of a lovers’ quarrel, as Gallant attempts to navigate a minefield of “fussin,'” “fightin'” and “borderline cryin.'” He decides to call a truce: “Girl I know you’re tired of this argument/Why don’t we sleep on it?” And then he suddenly changes his tactics: “Complicated, but your body’s just the opposite/I want to sleep on it.”
Gallant delivers the come-on entirely straight-faced, in the exact same pleading tone he used to ask for a cease-fire. The element of surprise helps him pull it off, as does a bridge that distantly echoes Usher’s indelible “Nice and Slow.” The singer brings things to a close by firing a series of falsetto salvos just before the final hook.
Gallant has not released an album since 2016. Ology was full of reckless falsetto — enough to earn a Grammy nomination — but hindered by timid production. Last year Gallant returned with the sweeping “Doesn’t Matter,” which represented a personal breakthrough but not a commercial one. The single reached the Top Ten in the radio format known as Adult R&B, but that space is largely ignored by the rest of the music industry, so a rumored second album failed to materialize.
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Now Gallant has adopted a different strategy by spraying singles: “Sleep on It” is his fifth song of 2019.