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Written by Jack Gourlay, Sophie-Rose Harper & The Night VI.
Published by EMI Publishing
Produced & Engineered by Jack Gourlay at The Others Studios
Mixed & Mastered by Yoad Nevo at Nevo Sound Studios
Performed by The Night VI:
With/ Sophie-Rose Harper: Vocals
Kristy Buglass: Harmony Vocals
Anna Pesquidous: Harp & Xylophone
Bogart Giner: Bass
Jack Gourlay: Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, Piano, Organ, Rhodes, Synthesisers, Drum programming & Percussion.
Artwork and concept by Anna Pesquidous, Felipe Pizano & The Night VI.
Photography by Felipe Pizano behance.net/felipepizano
Today marks the release of an album I’ve been looking forward to for a long time – Tinashe’s major label debut, “Aquarius.”
After a conversation with a friend last night about this record and the artists within R&B, it got me thinking about how the landscape for this genre of music has changed over the last few years. Growing up, I listened to Aaliyah, TLC, Janet Jackson, to name a few. Those three sets of artists shaped the listener I am today. My collection is so focused on current R&B artists and that’s where a lot of my new discoveries live. This “alt R&B” movement has started with artists like Kelela, Jhene Aiko, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and Sampha. However something that has sparked an new thought process for me was a feature on FKA Twigs and how alt R&B must die from The Fader written by Aimee Cliff - "When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: ‘I’ve never heard anything like this before, it’s not in a genre,’” she continued. “And then my picture came out six months later, now she’s an R&B singer. I share certain sonic threads with classical music; my song “Preface” is like a hymn. So let’s talk about that. If I was white and blonde and said I went to church all the time, you’d be talking about the ‘choral aspect’. But you’re not talking about that because I’m a mixed-race girl from south London.”
FKA Twigs’ anecdote about first coming out in music really challenged everything I’d thought about happening in R&B. I am a big fan of “alt R&B.” I listen to all of the artists I’ve mentioned above. But with that said, I also listen to Brandy, Fantasia, Kelly Rowland, Alicia Keys…the list goes on. All of the artists mentioned released very traditional (and I mean that as a compliment) albums in the last 2 years and prior.
With “alt R&B,” we are seeing a really progressive sonic movement with a non-traditional sonic landscape. A big difference that I’ve noticed is that the alt releases of this conversation are much more welcomed by white critics, music fans, and radio stations, and that’s not the case with the traditional releases. It feels to me that “alt R&B” was created so that white indie music fans had a category in R&B to pay attention to, whether intentional or not. As pointed out in Aimee Cliff’s article, “By adding the prefix, it sidelines R&B itself by implying it’s not experimental, boundary-pushing or intellectual. It throws side-eye at the genre, while at the same time claiming to have discovered something worthy within it. To call someone “alternative R&B” is pretty much the ultimate musical negging: it feels like it’s not so far away from saying, “This is innovative… for R&B.” It allows curious outsiders to have their say while still maintaining a spectre of segregation. It keeps R&B perpetually in another room.”
This is a perspective I never thought about as I listen to artists across all genres. After my conversation with my friend last night, I realized more of where the lines are. The traditional and progressive releases are more about categories of inspiration rather than genre segregation. At least that’s how I interpret it. I look at the inspiration I hear on Tinashe’s album “Aquarius” and it’s oozing 90s R&B from Aaliyah, to Janet, to TLC. The flow, content, and sound are all a natural evolution from that time period where R&B really found a new stamp in popular music and society. I hear this type of inspiration in everyone from Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Jhene Aiko, and Kelela. I also hear inspiration from Whitney, Mariah, Toni, in the more traditional releases. One of my favorite albums from 2013 was Fantasias, “Side Effects of You,” and that album to me was a progression from the big singers from the 90s. We are witnessing the natural progression in R&B in all forms, and to describe any of it as other is just wrong. The beauty in this evolution is showcasing true artistic forces, and for a genre that hasn’t had as much light as it deserves in popular music, I can only be excited for what’s next.
"When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.” - Beyoncé
Happy birthday, Grace Jones! #TeamTaurus
Bey x Janelle Monáe x Solo x Erykah Badu | 2014 MET Gala
Beyoncé on OUT Magazine Power Issue, May 2014
The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour
Photo Credit: Rob Hoffman
THE CIVIL WARS
Sam Smith. Tonight. The Dakota Jazz Club. Minneapolis.