There are times when you hear an artist and you instantly gravitate to them. That doesn't happen TOO often for me honestly, but when it does, it is something special. Today, I wanted to talk about one of the more recent instances where this happened.
Let me just say this: I don't usually find myself often listening to music regularly from women/female artists. Before you label me sexist or some sort of that, that's not the case at all. As a black man, dealing with the rigors of life and all that it has to offer requires a soundtrack, and my soundtrack has always been music I related to personally or understood as a man. It's in the KRIT, Kendrick, Phonte, Nas, Blu, Outkast, Jay, Maxwell, D'Angelo, or Bilal lanes that I can truly find solace in the music. Aside from the epic Sade, the occasional Jill Scott song, classic 60s-90’s female R&B/soul, or the catalog of Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu, I've not really become huge fans of female artists, or should I say that I don't listen to them as often, though I always enjoy the sounds and respect their artistry. I'm quite picky about the music I listen to on a daily basis and that includes a small group of artists as is, so when I sat down 4 years ago with my ex and discovered the sounds of Lianne La Havas, I was honestly blown away.
I remember sitting at my desk at work and hearing the opening chords and notes of the song that really introduced her, "Lost and Found." Within her voice, there was a pain, an emotion, something that really hit me in the soul. I would play that song over and over and when I mentioned the song and her music to friends (including Speed), we all seemed to gravitate to her.
It was something special about this beautiful woman of Greek and Jamaican heritage that had me almost in a trance when I heard her sing and heard the sounds of her strumming her guitar. I can't liken it to any other artist that I've heard before. Her voice is flawless, her production is the perfect blend of soulful alternative vibes and jazzy acoustics, and her lyrics provide a depth that I haven't truly heard in a female artist (or really any artist regardless of gender honestly) since Lauryn or Sade.
She does something special with her music, and when she arrived on the scene with her debut album "Is Your Love Big Enough", I remember thinking to myself that I hope she displays the longevity to sustain a great career in music. As a fan, I would not be disappointed, as Lianne would make what I feel is one of the more modern classics. I couldn't pinpoint what made Lianne stand out honestly, it was just something in her music that really grabbed me and from songs such as "Age" to "Gone" to "Elusive," her debut is something that remains in regular rotation for me. I would watch some of her live performances and truly enjoy the level of artistry she brought along with such a beautiful voice.
I tend to think she's one of the most-important female artists, if not the most important of this generation (the 2010s), as her emotional complexity shines through a simplistic yet somehow intricate view on life, love and the world at large. She digs within her soul lyrically to pull out her deepest and darkest feelings, as on the aforementioned "Lost and Found," she references being broken by a lover of the past, but there's such a lyrical depth here that I can't help but feel it's a story of finding yourself and embracing the self love and worth internally. From the lyrics of "come upstairs and I'll show you/where all my all my demons hide from you" to the simple "you broke me and taught me/to truly...hate myself," one has to wonder if she blames the past lover or if she's talking to a mirror image?
It's that level of poignancy and intricacy that makes me love Lianne and her music.
She would go on tour after the critically acclaimed album and end up working with the legendary Prince who saw something special in her. When a legend like Prince sees the gold within Lianne, that lets you know the level of artist that she is. He would enlist her to be a part of his Art Official Age album for multiple songs, and considering this is Prince, someone who has always stayed away from collaboration and allowing many others on his albums, that was a big deal. Lianne would then go on what could be perceived as a spiritual journey with her mother to look at her heritage and roots shortly after the tour was concluded. She was riding a wave of success, had one of the better albums of 2012, was gaining acclaim, worked with one of the greatest artists of all time extensively, and after her journey with her mother, she felt inspired to write a new album.
That new album, titled Blood, is the best work of her career. It's much more upbeat, yet even more in depth, showcasing fiery soul and some small infusions of funk on the album to truly drive home this newfound message and awakening. She smoothly coasts over every track, with my favorites on this album being "Wonderful", a soft ballad about her and a lover, "Green and Gold", which sounds like her journey put into a soulful anthem, along with two of her singles "Unstoppable" and "What You Won't Do."
The whole album is just amazing, and it showcases progression and evolution in her sound and a different level of comfort within her music. The album is ripe with fluidity, serenity, and a feel of peace within its lyricism and sound, invoking neo-soul and jazz as well. While the acoustic sound is always a basis of Lianne and her music, and she would release a Blood solo EP of acoustic versions for 5 or 6 of the songs on the album. It was a nice change to hear the implementation of the classical soul and jazz sounds. It fit her perfectly.
Lianne deserves all the success in the world and as a fan, I can't wait to see what she does next musically. Perhaps she'll take a different direction musically and sound wise, to further advance the sounds of Blood, or maybe she'll expand on that sound in an even more soulful way. Regardless, the possibilities are endless for an artist of her caliber, and the sky is the limit for this gorgeous and talented artist. If you're not familiar and aware with Lianne, you need to be.