Na’el and Via Rosa perform as Drama.
Na’el and Via Rosa perform as Drama. Credit: Courtesy of Drama

We’ll never know what might have been for any of us had 2020 turned out a little less soul crushing. But it feels extra bittersweet to imagine the possibilities for Chicago duo Drama, who released their debut album, Dance Without Me (Ghostly International), just before lockdown. Since joining forces in 2014, vocalist Via Rosa and producer Na’el have captured Chicago’s hearts. The sleek, controlled fusions of R&B, dance, and pop on their first release, the 2016 EP Gallows, sounded less like the work of newcomers than like a long-established group looking back on their journey—especially given the reflective quality of Rosa’s teardrop voice. Dance Without Me builds on that energy with dreamy, hypnotic songs about relationships and lost love that feel simultaneously intimate and larger than life. The group’s ace songwriting and production make practically every track feel like it could stand alone as a single. The slow-grooving “Years” describes being there for someone who’s done you wrong, even knowing they’ll do it again, and its anthemic chorus could suit a blockbuster romance. But despite the album’s frequent tangles with heartbreak, it doesn’t sink to groveling—the jubilant, club-ready “Hold On” expresses self-love in the face of rejection. “How could somebody let go of somebody this fine?” Rosa sings. “They must not know what they like.” Pop music often feels plastic and disposable, but the songs on Dance Without Me seem timeless—and now that Drama can perform live again, they seem poised to convert legions of new fans, whether playing to clubgoers at Lincoln Hall or to festival crowds at Lollapalooza.  v