Hello Hello! This is the first installment of a new series I will be writing for BP called the “Weekly Round-Up.” Each week, I will be discussing my favorite releases across a variety of musical genres. Though these songs will be of different genres, what connects them all is the color of the artist’s skin (blackity black y’all!). With this series, I hope to expose Black and non-Black students to the music of Black musicians across many genres. Not only is this an opportunity for me to discover Black music, but for you to engage with music they may otherwise have. I hope you can join me on this journey through Black music! For week one, I will be reviewing my favorite releases since the beginning of the academic year. No specific genre is attached to these songs, however, most of them are R&B or incorporate R&B aesthetics.
Get Up - LION BABE featuring Trinidad James
I had to begin this series exposing you to the New York R&B duo that is LION BABE. Since the release of their debut album in 2016, Begin, I have been enamored by their creativity, vocal ingenuity, experimentation, and pop-funk lyricism. Consisting of singer Jillian Hervey and record producer Lucas Goodman, the Interscope Records signees have released 3 studio albums, all of which I would highly recommend. Get Up is a single off of their most recent project, Rainbow Child, a 20-minute album telling you how awesome you are. That is by no means an exaggeration: the album is about you, the listener. The entire album is dedicated to uplifting listeners and encouraging everyone to embrace the innate qualities that make us who we are. Get Up radiates energies of self-love, inspiring listeners to take pride in their own beauty.
The track feels like a conversation between the listener and Jillian; her lyrics are reinforced by background vocals that are in constant support of her and, adversely, the audience. The lyrics lack intricacy, but this I believe gives the song strength: its simple message housed in simple language invites listeners to walk in. By the third chorus, we are singing along, being our own cheerleader, and embracing the mood which the lyrics establish with their simplicity. The verse by Trinidad James is equally as simple, but his rhyme scheme and tempo match the melody perfectly, not to mention the softer tone of his delivery.
Get Up is only a 2-minute track, yet somehow LION BABE has created a universe of optimism that is genuinely heart-warming. If you’re ever feeling less than what you’re worth, I would prescribe a single listen of Get Up: this, I believe, can lift you out of your worst moods, or uplift you while you’re at your best.
Unloyal - Summer Walker with Ari Lennox
Still, Over It, the highly anticipated sophomore album of R&B artist Summer Walker is damn near flawless; however, no song is more flawless than “Unloyal.” As this series continues its installments, it will become apparent that I am extremely biased towards Ari Lennox; no matter if it’s a single, a feature, or just one singular note, Ari can do no wrong in my eyes. She is unquestionably my favorite woman artist of the year, and her feature on Walker’s “Unloyal” is undoubtedly the quintessential R&B collaboration of 2021.
“Unloyal” details the far too common difficulties of modern relationships; Summer Walker emphasizes the patriarchal sex standards that often place women within restrictive social constructs such as “hoe” or “unloyal.” In a joint effort, Ari and Summer ruthlessly embrace the title of “unloyal,” condemning their former significant other for having wasted their time. If moving on and practicing self-love leads to unloyalty, then Summer and Ari are more than fine with being “unloyal,” By reclaiming and recontextualizing this label, Summer and Ari have created a space where women who’ve been hurt by men can find power in the stereotypes that once caused them pain.
This is all relayed beautifully over a soft set of guitar riffs, a melancholic drumline, and syrupy background vocals. With only two verses on the track (one of which is Summer’s, the other, Ari’s), the weight of the song lies in the harmonies of the chorus, where Summer embraces the title of “unloyal” and reaffirms her detachment from her ex-lover. The tone, emotionality, and sensuality of the song are beautiful, assured to make any listener both apprehensive towards their own ex and carnally satisfied. I recommend a thorough listen of Still Over It; however, if you’re strapped for time, then just basque in the allure that is “Unloyal.”
Smokin’ Out the Window - Silk Sonic
With only a week left until the release of Silk Sonic’s debut album An Evening With Silk Sonic, the R&B funk and soul duo was bound to tease us and tease us they did. “Smokin’ Out the Window" is but another Motown-inspired track about the disastrousness of relationships released by Silk Sonic, and as much as the track makes you want to dance, it is equally retrospective. The song is a diatribe against a woman who Silk Sonic believes has played them for a fool. They’ve bought said woman Tiffany diamonds, taken care of her kids, paid off rents, and paid for trips, and yet she continues leaving them for other men. By the end of the song, Bruno and Anderson have come to the conclusion that they can no longer be with a said woman, and end up terminating the relationship. It is but another tale of the formidable beast that is love, and Silk Sonic makes sure to couch this journey in neo-Funk instrumentals.
The highlight of the track is Bruno’s unbelievable Marvin Gaye impression at its end. Though he may not have been trying to impersonate Gaye, Bruno’s falsetto, vocal inflections and tender care of tone are reminiscent of the soft suede and velvet timbre of “The Prince of Soul.” If this track acts as an indication of what is to come next week, then I believe all listeners of An Evening with Silk Sonic will be grooving, moving, and possibly contemplating about a boo. Whatever it may be, I am overjoyed for the release of this album, and hope that Smokin’ Out the Window is but another track that keeps me in modernity while taking me back to the 70s.