At first glance, "Apple Cherry"—a stand-out from East London singer/songwriter/producer Nao’s sophomore EP—registers as a love song, comparing kisses to all manner of farmer’s market fare. With that voice, everything has the effect of a love song: a soaring, trembling falsetto, its self-evident strength even more impressive when she lets it curl up and be small. That unconventionally sexy upper register suggests the Purple One, but its dazzle is countered by flashes of Badu-esque sepia tones. It's textured with the gritty metallics of grime in its free-verse percussion, used sparingly and guided more by instinct than meter.
But as we pan out a bit, the lover never enters the frame. It becomes clear that none of Nao’s reveries have made it out of her head and into the physical realm; it's uncertain if the recipient of her poetic fantasies is aware of the tension at all. “Your apple cherry kisses, how would they feel?” she asks, her falsetto aching with possibility, and then the beat drops out, all but for a loose drum solo that feels like kicking your sheets as you roll around in your own bed. A stubborn snare shuffle-ball-changes around, waiting to be noticed. How would they feel—it’s not a rhetorical question, and Nao trails off for a bit to answer it privately, as some things sound best kept inside your head.