The Emergence of the UK ‘Imperfect’ Soul

In British television, particularly reality television or talent contests, there is a repeated trope that black female contestants fall into. The ‘soulful’ black woman, she can power through ballads, her style is gospel, her vocal abilities surpass those she is competing with. Often, she is subject to genre experimentation, we see her recite self-written rapper verses, just to pander to the British public’s understanding of what is ‘urban’. The contestant is boxed into the trope of ‘Sassy Black Woman’ through what the media understands as black characteristics; urban wear, rap music and dance, she is also held to the ‘Magic Black Girl’ perfection, consistently having to meet high performance standard, where one can draw comparisons to existing R’n’B singers. If this standard is not met, she faces the cognitive dissonance of the British public. We are told her downfall is her inability to relate to the public, but really, the issue is that the contestant was unable consistently meet the tropes of black women heavily engrained into British culture. British ‘reality television’ platforms continuously fail contestants through attempting to frame their art forms to one that can be digestible through an entertainment lens, with minority contestants, this lens is understood as a “white entertainment” lens where the additional struggle of being understood by the white majority audience arises.

Contemporary soul, rap and R&B is seeing the development of a counter culture that perfectly responds to this trope, the nuances of black existence are translated into a musical soundscape to form a sonic understanding of this identity. Moreover, we see the rejection of the polished soul singer, as indie artists could embrace the imperfections of the raspy “Halsey” voice, contemporary R’n’B artists are embracing the gentler, softer notes that counter traditional vocal powerhouses.

Fusions of gospel, classic soul and electronic music appear in artists such as Nao, Ray Blk, Sampha and Kelsey Lu, to ears that haven’t experienced the cultural mishmash that is growing up city immigrant communities around the UK, it acts as a way of understanding such beings as products of these cultural interactions. A clear example of this idea is Ray Blk’s “Baby Girlz”, the song is a UK rap piece with a sung chorus. Blk’s identity as a South Londoner is clearly demonstrated, her accent is a clear marker of her London upbringing and the old-school hip hop samples imply a black musical presence in her lifetime. Jorja Smith’s debut single “Blue Lights” uses a similar indicator, the song is an entirely sung pieces yet uses a sample from Dizzee Rascal’s 2007 single “Sirens”, clearly indicating her English identity.

Similarly, to how Solange used her expression of experiences exclusive to the African American community as catharsis, we are seeing UK artists break through the stereotypical representations of blackness in British media and express their exclusive Black British experiences.




Symphony No.3: Coloured Musicians in White spaces Appreciation Post


POC = People Of Color (non-whites)

People of color are constantly criticized for their choices,especially when they are not conforming to stereotypes of their race.There is little representation of colored people in the media,therefore this leads people to believe that there is a cookie cutter image that all POC to follow.In music,the cookie cutter image for black consumers is “listens rap/reggae/r&b” and for a black musician,there is always space for them in  the “urban” category. People of color of criticized for performing or even listening to non stereotypical genres.You may argue that white people are criticized for listening to rap and reggae or white musicians gain little acceptance in these genres.But music is dominated by genres claimed by white people,white music is essentially,the default listening music,when a white artist approaches a colored music scene they gain acceptance of a white audience whereas POC struggle with that.criticism is what colored people are met with when they to genre bend or explore white dominant genres,sometimes they are met with refusal to acknowledge their use of the genre and are thrown back into the “urban tag”.

This post is made purely to appreciate and acknowledge musicians of color outside their claimed genres


1. Kele Okereke of Bloc Party

Kele provides the lead vocals in the band Bloc Party.Bloc party are a great alternative rock band based in England,they have been around since 2003 and their most recent album “Four” came out in 2012 after a four year hiatus.

listen to “Helicopter” (from Silent Alarm, 2005)

2.All members of Bad Brains

Bad Brains are a “hardcore” (they openly object to be catergorised as hardcore) punk rock band from Washington Dc.They have broken up and reformed several times over the years , sometimes with different singers and/or drummers. The group’s classic line-up was singer H.R., guitarist Dr. Know, bass guitarist Darryl Jennifer, and drummer Earl Hudson,who are all Black.

listen to “Pay to Cum” (from Bad Brains, 1985)

3.Poly Styrene of Xray Spexs

Poly Styrene is one of the coolest people ever, she  vocals for the punk rock band X-ray spexs.she is a mix Somali and Scottish-Irish decent.Not only is she a female lead vocalist she also is openly feminist and contrasts from the typical sex object female of 1970s rock star.Her vocals are a pleasantly feminine touch to Xray Spex’s eletric guitar ridden racket.

listen to “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!”

5.Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon

Nagano was born and raised in Göteborg,Sweden to a Japanese father and American Mother.Yukimi’s versatilite vocals sit atop the keyboard heavy tunes..Little dragons is heavily R&B influenced electronic group formed.They released their long delayed Nabuma Rubberland earlier this year,after pushing the release date several times. Little Dragon have also featured in a gorillaz song called “To Binge” from the album Plastic Beach.

listen to “Constant Surprises” (from Little Dragon,2007)

6.Gbenga Adelekan of Metronomy

Gbenga Adelekan plays bass and provides vocals for the band Metronomy.Metronomy  are super cute band formed Devon,England,they perform wearing matching outfits extremely often which may be some kind of eccentric trade mark.Their music has an percussion,heavy off-kilter pop sound which they have incorporated in to works of Lykke Li and other artists in their remixes

listen to “The Look” (from The English Riviera, 2011)

7.Foo Fighters (Pat Smear)

Pat Smear is a guitarist in the band the Foo Fighters,he was a live guitarist for Nirvana (he appears on their MTV Unplugged). Pat Smear is of   African-American /Native American and German Jewish descent was also.When in the foo fighters,he was replaced by Franz Stahl however he rejoined the band in 1997.Pat Smear is thoroughly underrated,his discography is wider than that of most guitarists,people should pay more attending to drummers

(Perhaps i’ll do a drummers appreciation post next)