Managing to survive close to 20 years in an extremely fickle and constantly changing music industry, Portsmouth, VA-born singer/songwriter Nicole Wray has had lengthy career with close brushes with massive success and series of soul-crushing downs. When Wray was a fairly normal teenager, working part time as a telemarketer when Missy Elliot paid a visit to Wray and her family’s home, based purely on the rumored strength and quality of her voice. And as the story goes, Elliott was so impressed by the young Wray that Elliott offered the then-15-year-old a record deal, and Wray left town that very night. By 1998 Wray had a hit, gold single off her debut album Make It Hot and was part of a group of artists who dominated both the charts and airwaves — the aforementioned Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Playa, Timbaland and Magoo. Wray was close to superstardom; however, with only one single “I’m Lookin‘” and a stalled sophomore full-length effort, Wray had found her time with Missy Elliot and company had run its course. And although Wray had achieved fairly rapid success, she was stuck without knowing what to do and without much purpose.
By 2004, Wray was signed by Damon Dash‘s Roc-A-Fella Records, who released “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” a single that received quite a bit of airplay nationally; however, the label famously split up just as she was about to release her long-awaited sophomore effort, the album was shelved. On top of the music industry troubles, the Portsmouth, VA-born singer/songwriter had been going through major personal issues — her father and his drug addiction strained her parents’ marriage, several family members had run-ins with the law and several friends had tragically died way too young. Naturally, these experiences deeply influenced her and Wray found herself taking greater control of her career and her life, becoming as she believes a smarter and sharper songwriter and vocalist.
Maintaining a connection with Damon Dash, the Portsmouth, VA-born singer/songwriter picked up a few notable guest spots including an appearance on The Black Keys‘ 2009 Blackroc project and on the band’s Grammy-winning effort, Brothers. In 2013, Wray had teamed up with London-based vocalist Terri Walker in Lady Wray and with the same group of backing musicians behind Aloe Blacc and Lee Fields, released Lady through Truth and Soul Records — and the effort was released to critical praise. But just as the project was receiving attention, Walker left the act to pursue her own projects. And instead of walking away in frustration, Wray continued the Lady Wray project by herself, viewing it as an opportunity to continue to show her vocal chops and to show her growth as a songwriter.
Queen Alone may be Nicole Wray’s first full-length effort in some time; however, Wray is reunited with the original backing band from Lady Wray’s early days, along with Big Crown Records‘ Leon Michels and Daptone Records Tom Brenneck handling production and as Wray explains in press notes the album is a “reflection of my soul. It’s who I am today. ” And as a result, the material on the album is inspired by the singer/songwriter’s life. The album’s latest single “Do It Again” is reportedly is a story about a failed relationship, as well as the story of a cherished and revered intimacy that the song’s narrator is desperate to re-enter regardless of the consequences on her heart and soul. Sonically speaking the song manages to channel What’s the 411 and My Life-era Mary J. Blige and bolstered by the Daptone Records famed horn section paired with silky smooth vocals.
The video which features footage shot on a rooftop with an elegantly dressed Wray vamping, smoking and spending time (presumably) with a lover — and it also visually draws from some classic Mary J. Blige videos including “Be Happy” and “Real Love.”