Once You Go Black
Why I hope Billie Black’s beautiful voice will be my 2015 bragging right
Since 1998 three things have gratified my soul as a DJ — riding the perfect blend, seeing a crowd dance and being up on new music early. Enter 19 year old singer songwriter, Billie Black, pinboard of my hopes for 2015.
After being only reasonably early on Eminem signed Yelawolf and early-ish on the bottled spirit of Bob Marley that is Chronixx, I am placing a lot of faith on Billie Black, also because I saw the below video today at just 189 YouTube views. Discovered midway through a writers block induced procrastination day in Dubai, I fell into Facebook’s black hole where friend Elysa Chiarina Ferritto d’Abbro posted a link to Billie Black’s new video “Hung Up (Live Session)” with the comment “Fiiiiyaaaa”.
Expecting a male artist channeling the energy of M.O.P. I hit play and saw the start of any other minimalist Canon 5D shot acoustic live session video. However when Billie Black, the young lady, starts singing, with her vocals ballet dancing around the initial bass kick and keys, you know instantly that you’ll be sticking with song for the full radio friendly length of 3m38s.
The video quickly became as beautifully transparent and revealing as the song itself, deconstructing the perfectly orchestrated instruments and vocal support she has around her astounding range of songbird style delivery tones. I mean you just don’t imagine that a cover girl style talent would want to even make a record like this — especially so young. As a DJ you could imagine a studio version of this heading straight to an Tier 1 playlist on any mainstream radio channel. The YouTube description mentioned she has an EP on Spotify, so off I went. What I discovered next was nothing short of brilliant.
Her EP is titled “000 — 100”, and in terms of magnetism, it goes zero to a hundred real quick. The first four of the songs “I Don’t Need Another Lover” starts by clearly stating it’s intentions by singing the song name over and over again, later on switching between the word “lover”, “other” and “brother”, justifying her reasons for all three. Lyrically, it’s astounding.
“from the conception to the close, I can see who I need most, I can see who I’ve been host to, I can see who tries to compromise me, and I don’t need another brother”
The synthetic jazz is as haunting at the poltergeist like jolts of the video with the vocals coming in like a merger of sweetness combining New Yorican Soul with the slowed down contemporary delivery of The Weeknd. It’s different and it just works, reminding me of how I felt when I first heard the mythical Hinda Hicks.
Next up is “Do You Really”. By the third song I had no doubt that lyrically it would be strong and it was. The song again is minimal with a bit more melody and echoes than the former song. The vocal arrangement at the beginning of each verse reminds me of Mary J Blige's, “Not Gon’ Cry”. In a world of ultra confident young female singers starting in the underground, such as the incredible Yasmin and Katy B, Black confidently joins the pack, further strengthening the renaissance-like soulful capability of young British females.
The thinner high note strings on the third track “Black & White” introduce an element of backwards jumping funk whilst sounding like the song could still be used on a soundtrack for a remake of “Sliver”. Lyrically it relies a little more on the chorus than the first few songs but ends before that can be a crutch.
And finally, the again eerie “I Waited For You” sounds even more like it came from beyond the grave. Reminding me once more of the The Weeknd’s fantastic “House of Balloons” debut, Billie sings in scorned repetition “I was waiting for you”, before heading into a chorus that has the “boom boom boom, clap” bounce structure of early Timbaland production for Ginuwine. The second verse introduced more rolls and beat doubling, building a dub / drum and bass feeling around Billie’s miraculously consistent delivery. Ultimately it’s good to get this dark and be original, resisting the temptation of a popular Lorde-like sound.
The EP is available on her Soundcloud, can be streamed on Spotify and should be purchased at just £2.49 on iTunes. Quite simply this music has to be part of the UK’s flagship sound for 2015 or the world is truly going mad. What do you think? Leave a comment or tweet me @RajKotecha.