Dark And STORMY soul

In the current music age, R&B and hip hop reign supreme. That can be hard going if it’s not really your genre, since R&B and hip hop are everywhere — dominating the ambience. It’s never been my own bag, though I do have a thing for retro hip hop from way back. However, being exposed to more ‘urban’ music (is that still a meaningful expression for a genre?) has had its benefits. Mostly, I have come to appreciate much of the current crop of female new wave R&B: a genre that wraps sophisticated and innovative musicality with lyrics loaded with empowerment messaging and a fair amount of social commentary.

It might even be described as vaguely political (well, it is feminist!). I use this playlist to feature tracks from my favourites among this movement: namely SZA, Solange, Lykke Li, Jorja Smith, Tirzah, Fatima et. al. And above all for me, the wonderfully avante garde Dawn Richard, who’s Goldenheart album was among my favourites back from 2013. She is really out there pushing the boundaries. But all these artists are too in their own way, and they have all released great albums recently. But check out that Fatima track ‘Somebody Else’ — pretty dark and stormy. I first came across this song on Giles Peterson’s ‘Worldwide’ BBC 6 Music show (where else?) and discovered it was the first song release from her fabulous Sophomore album too. It seemed like a fitting last track for the playlist.

This playlist mixes these new gals amongst some more familiar female greats of recent times: Janet Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Lianne La Havas, Kelis, Santigold, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse and Grace Jones. And Lana Del Rey of course. Pretty formidable bunch eh? And then I figured the deep catalogue from Rose Royce and Dionne Warwick wouldn’t be too out of place here either.

I’ve thrown some guys in too, from the leftfield really: James Blake, Frank Ocean, Sampha, Bon Iver and a fabulous track from the last album by Paolo Nutini, who I think is one of the true great soul artists living and working today, a ‘real deal’ sort of musician who is something a throwback to the old style when artists would surface with a great album and then disappear for ages until the next one was done. So Paolo, where is it?

I think Leon Bridges could be up there with Paolo too, and the track Bad Bad News is such a great song, but a fabulous recording where the musicianship stands out a mile from anything else I’ve heard recently. I’ll keep this one updated as I hear more and the playlist hasn’t been too carefully scheduled, so whack it on shuffle and it’ll work just fine.

If there is a mood accompanying the playlist then it is an air of melancholy and regret. You might have just been dumped from a great height, or you might just be in need of a good cry at the state of the world and your place in it right now. And you will almost certainly be needing a dark rum, ginger beer and lime slice, on copious quantities of ice. Yes, Dark & Stormy indeed. Drink up, it’ll be fine…