Sunday 14 February 2021

Corinne Bailey Rae (2006): Albums of my Life: An A-Z

...liking Corinne Bailey Rae's music immediately, in particular her most well-known singles 'Like a Star and 'Put Your Records On'. Her vibe was carefree and fresh; her voice sweet and open-- what wasn't to like? Her first, self-titled album debuted at number 1 in the UK charts which I never really took note of at the time, but speaks for the power of the album. For context, the chart that week also featured Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs and Gorillaz. Corinne Bailey Rae's music would fit the genre of modern soul/ R 'n B music, but this was a time where we might see more 'real' voices in the charts (as opposed to over-produced, auto-tuned sounding vocals that are popular right now). Now it feels like you have to seek out the Corinne Bailey Rae's of the music industry because chart music is of a particular 'sound' (with a few exceptions). I was in my early twenties when this came out and it was a joy to me then and now.

This was also a time when WAP meant 'wireless application protocol' and you could get ringtones of your favourite album tracks on your phone! I can even remember composing my own ringtones on my Nokia phone (Ginuwine's '2Way' more specifically!)

'Corinne Bailey Rae' is a UK artist from Leeds. She brings both sunshine and rain with this album. It tells a story of new love, self love and lost love; love that is painful and tragic; love that makes your heart sing. 'Like a Star' opens the album which begins with Corinne's voice acapella for the first two words then acoustic guitar joining her. It is a delicate ode to a loved one which feels like the lyric 'oil on my hands' personified in a vocal-- smooth, calming and tender. What I love about this song is its simplicity, purity and disparity from the brash attitude to love we might see in some modern artists' work. I've heard India Arie speak about this before, but I don't think it has been easy to be a female artist who doesn't go down the 'sex sells' route with their image, dance moves or lyrics, particularly as black artists. There is, of course, a place for female sexual empowerment, but not at the expense of artists who wish to take a less overt approach to the themes of sex and love in their music.

Despite, slightly less mainstream chart success at the top end, Corinne Bailey Rae's following albums have received critical acclaim and she is a well-respected musician with her work featuring in film soundtracks, however if you mentioned her name to some, particularly a younger generation, they may look at you blankly. They would do well to become familiar with her music if they appreciate the genre.

'Put Yours Records On' is an anthem for the free-spirited of any age. Upbeat, nostalgic and celebratory of self, this track has always been a fan favourite. As a younger person, she speaks to you directly: "You're gonna find yourself somewhere, somehow." (however, we're all learning, even if we're 'grown'). You'll spot a trope with my record collection: I love a female role model who encourages personal growth, self-respect and inner strength. I sometimes wonder whether this is lacking in modern culture when I see how many young girls and boys struggle with mental health issues-- not that we didn't too-- but perhaps a bit of soul music would go a long way to help them feel less alone. It helped me.

'Call Me When You Get This' is also a great track from this album. Its bass-line is sweet-hot and the strings give it a nostalgic edge; Corinne's voice is effortless and swells to the crescendo of the chorus so gorgeously. Watch her sing it live to get a sense of how flawless her voice is. 

'Breathless' feels intimate, like reading Corinne's secret diary and tells the tale of new, exciting love, the type where you don't know whether it will be reciprocated. 

What strikes me about Corinne Bailey Rae's music is that it is meant to be experienced live. Seeing her at The Tabanacle in 2016 with my brother was incredible. The venue is relatively small and we were sat close to the stage. As years had passed since her first release, her original fans had grown up with her and would probably have been aware of her first husband tragically passing in 2008-- something she reflected on briefly live when playing some of her more recent material. 

To be part of a crowd of long-time fans of her music and singing along to 'Put Your Records On' and 'Like a Star' was emotional for me because my enjoyment of soul and R n B music has been an introspective love, not generally shared with others. Not everyone has explored this genre beyond the 90s and early 2000s chart offerings. I'm one of those people who will devour every lyric, harmony and riff of a song until it becomes part of my internal jukebox. I felt that I was shoulder to shoulder with others like me at this amazing gig.

1. Just Like a Star
2. Put Your Records On
3. Call Me When You Get This

... I want to feel soothed and calm, or perhaps reflective.

'Three little birds sat on my window
And they told me I don't need to worry
Summer came like cinnamon, so sweet
Little girls, double-dutch on the concrete
' ('Put Your Records On')

The song feels so summery and hopeful. 

... Chesnut brown. I'm probably influenced by the tans and sepias of the album artwork, but it reflects the earthy feel of the album and the warmth of Corinne's beautiful, soulful voice.

'Come to My Garden'/ Minnie Riperton (1970)
'CrazySexy Cool'/ TLC (1994)
'Can't Take Me Home'/ Pink (2000)

What is your favourite album beginning with C?

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