JOVM celebrates what would have been Aaliyah’s 43rd birthday.
JOVM celebrates what would have been Aaliyah’s 42nd birthday — belatedly.
JOVM celebrates LL Cool J’s 53rd birthday — belatedly.
Dubbed “this decade’s triple threat” by Love Magazine, Alewya is an emerging London-based singer/songwriter, producer and artist. Born in Saudi Arabia to an Egyptian-Sudanese father and an Ethiopian mother, the rising British singer/songwriter, producer and artist has spent her life surrounded by diaspora immigrant communities: she grew up in West London and after spending several years in New York, the emerging Saudi-born, London-based multi-disciplinary artist returned to London. At home, Alewya developed and honed her ear for music: through the sounds of the Ethiopian and Arabic devotional music of her parents, and the ambient alternative rock albums her brother would play.
Interestingly, the translation of the emerging Saudi-born, British-based artist’s name from Arabic means “most high” or “the highest” so it’s fitting that her music thematically is centered around the idea of transcendence. In fact, she sees her music as an accessible space for her and her listeners to connect on a spiritual level, with her work challenging the listener to remember the last time they felt truly connected to themselves and their emotions. “I want to move people to themself. I want them to feel the same way that I felt when I had a taste of a higher power and felt there was a presence over me. I want people to feel that.”
Earlier this year, the emerging Saudi-born, British-based multi-disciplinary artist had an attention-grabbing feature on Little Simz’s “where’s my lighter.” Building upon a growing profile, Alewya signed to renowned British label Because Records, who will be releasing her debut single, The Busy Twist-produced “Sweating.” Centered around twinkling synth arpeggios, skittering trap beats, reggae-influenced riddims and a self-assured and sultry vocal from the rising Saudi-born, British artist, the track — to my ears, at least — will draw comparisons to Timbaland’s forward-thinking, futuristic work with Missy Elliot, Aaliyah and others. It’s the sort of song that would (and should) inspire you to grind and wine into the wee hours with that pretty young thang at the club.“It’s about feeling chemistry with someone but also about a female who is not afraid of her prowess and power,” Alewya says in press notes. “It’s a mood.”
Directed by Jack Bowden, the recently released visual exudes with a raw, carnal energy as we see dancers in an industrial space wining and grinding. We see the emerging British-based artist confidently owning the screen while hinting at her wide-spanning talents.
Tennin · The What – The Notorious B.IG, Method Man [Tennin Remix]
With the release of a handful of singles that received attention from InRocksLab, Radio Nova, Earmilk and Afropunk, the rising Paris-based alternative pop artist Tennin quickly exploded into the international pop scene in 2015. The Paris-based artist ended a momentum building year by performing at La Cigale, as part of a showcase featuring rising female Parisian artists.
The following year, Tennin built upon her growing profile through tours across France, Germany and the UK. Adding to a relatively young career of big career highlights, the French pop artist’s single “Heal You,” catches the attention of acclaimed, trip hop pioneer Tricky, who signed her to !K7 Records. She then contributes a track to the Test of Time compilation, which featured tracks from Saul Williams, IDLES and others.
Additionally, last year saw her becoming a finalist of the Afropunk springboard but she also opened for the likes of Dope Saint Jude and Muthoni Drummer Queen at Les Cuizines — and she played the final show at Les Etoiles. She ended the year with a live interview and session for Radio Campus Brussels.
Earlier this year, the rising French pop artist signed to renowned Parisian electronic label Kitsune Music, who released her first single of this year “Guys in Tears.” Interestingly, Tennin posted a cover/remix of The Notorious B.I.G.‘s “The What,” feat. Method Man on Instagram that received such positive reactions that she decided to record and release a full-version. While retaining the original’s memorable beat, the addition of Tennin’s vocals adds sultry, Aaliyah-like air to the proceedings. Naturally, while being a shoutout to Golden Era, East Coast hip-hop, the song is also a vital reminder that hip-hop is the lingua franca of kids across the globe.
Initially formed in 2009 as Sister Crayon, the acclaimed Los Angeles, CA-based electro pop duo Rituals of Mine, currently comprised of singer/songwriter Terra Lopez and percussionist Adam Pierce have received attention for a sound that draws from 90s trip hop, footwork and downtempo R&B — and for years of relentless touring up and down the West Coast, playing house shows, DIY venues and basements with the likes of The Album Leaf, Built to Spill, Antemasque, Le Butcherettes, Maps & Atlases, Doomtree and others. Adding to a quickly growing profile, the Los Angeles-based duo’s first two albums — 2011’s Bellow and 2013’s Cynic — were released to critical acclaim.
2015 was a profoundly harrowing and difficult year for Lopez: her father committed suicide and several moths later, her best friend Lucas Johnson tragically died in an accident. Reeling from the grief of inconsolable and unexpected loss, Lopez in a period of deep reflection felt the need to reassess her life and her work in Sister Crayon. She decided to put the Sister Crayon name to rest, moving forward with a new moniker — Rituals of Mine. As Terra Lopez wrote at the time, “It was a mantra that I repeated under my breath on a daily basis when the loss I was experiencing felt too heavy at times. Music, the act of creating, performing, touring, writing, singing, experimenting – all the rituals we have created to get through life.”
After years of obscuring her own story and emotions through metaphorical lyrics, Lopez felt a sudden confidence to write much more directly about her experiences and life as a queer woman of color. Lopez began fleshing out the material on what would become her Rituals of Mine debut Devoted with her longtime collaborator and producer Wes Jones, who helped turn her heartfelt writing on her trauma and personal growth into urgent and pulsating electronic tracks. Lopez then enlisted Adam Pierce to play drums, knowing that their background in metal percussion would provide an intensity that could match her own.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you might recall that last year was a very busy year for Lopez and Pierce. They opened for a handful of dates for The Afghan Whigs and Built to Spill’s co-headliing tour, including a Chicago area stop last April. They also opened for Garbage during the multi-plantium Grammy Award-winning band’s US tour. They also went on their first UK tour with JOVM mainstay Geographer and The Seshen.
Interestingly, the duo’s highly anticipated Wes jones and Neal Pogue co-produced follow-up to Devoted, Sleeper Hold EP is slated for an October 4, 2019 release through Carpark Records — and the EP will include the urgent anti-Trump anthem “No Time To Go Numb,” a track that forcefully reminded the listener that now isn’t the time to slink back from the horrors of a power mad, greedy and hateful administration; that we have to be fueled by righteous anger and fight like hell for the things that truly matter. “Burst,” Sleeper Hold’s second and latest single is a glitchy and hyper-modern bit of electro R&B that’s centered around stuttering beats, tweeter and woofer rocking low end and Lopez’s sultry, self-assured vocals. And while the track may recall Timbaland’s forward-thinking work with Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, Rituals of Mine’s latest single is driven by Lopez’s commitment to unvarnished emotional honesty. “I made a promise to myself that I’m no longer going to play small or hide behind metaphors, that I’m going to really lean into self-confidence, self-reliance and take up space,” Lopez says in a statement to Billboard. “‘Burst is the beginning of that.”
Co-directed by Kris Esfandiari and Colette Levesque, the recently released video for “Burst” features Rituals of Mine’s Terra Lopez playing basketball against a team of evil and monstrous figures. At one point, her younger self appears and helps Lopez win the game. According to the statement Lopez wrote to Billboard, the recently released video represents overcoming past trauma to effectively move on in your life, with the young protagonist representing a younger version of herself. “The opponents all represent obstacles I’ve had to face being a queer woman of color in this industry … this video was a way for me to confront both my childhood traumas and adulthood obstacles through the activity that has always grounded me,” she says. “Also, I just really wanted to create our version of a Queer Space Jam for 2019.”
Comprised of Bob Matthews (guitar, production) and Catherine Pockson (vocals, piano), the London-based electro pop duo Alpines formed in 2010 and since their formation they’ve quickly built up a national and international profile as they opened for the likes of The Naked and The Famous, Emeli Sande and Florence and the Machine — eventually signing to a major label. Once their stint within the major label system ended, instead of being overwhelmed by a sense of bitter resignation, they self-released their first two, critically applauded full-length albums 2014’s Oasis and 2016’s Another River.
The duo’s soon-to-be-released third, full-length album Full Bloom is slated for a November 16, 2018 release through Untrue Records and the album reportedly channels some of the duo’s core influences — in particular, Prince, Aaliyah, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Kelela, 90s rave culture and Massive Attack; while lyrically the material touches upon growth, change, ecology, the every day challenges of love, acceptance and hardship. And as a result, the material finds the duo examining the inner and outer complexities of modern life, and our insecurities and vulnerabilities in a a profound mature fashion. Initially, the material was built around a basic piano idea, that they expanded upon within their Kingston-Upon-Thames studio. As the duo says, “There are tracks that lean more towards Catherine’s love of classic singer-songwriters and soul music, and others that are inspired by left-field producers and rap.” Additionally, the material draw from Netflix’s The OA, the work of architect Rachel Whiteread, contemporary fashion and art, as well.
The chilly yet soulful, “Full Bloom” is the album’s latest single, and the album title track is centered around Pockson’s soulful, pop belter vocals and a 90s soul meets house music-like production consisting of subtle yet lush layers of arpeggiated synths, twinkling keys, a classic house music breakbeat and a rousingly anthemic hook. And as a result, the song sonically brings Snap!’s “Rhythm Is A Dancer,” Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and Soul 2 Soul’s “Get A Life” among others. Lyrically, the song focuses on the fact that while things may seem difficult, that right now is the time to get it together, and save the Earth because time is a-wasiting; if we don’t, we’re all done for. “The title is in reference to the beauty of the natural world which is so fragile,” Alpine’s Catherine Pockson explains in press notes, “as well as a nod to what we feel we have achieved musically,” after several years of graft and struggle. The song is inspired by a recently UN Climate Change report that said we have maybe a good decade or so before we irrevocably alter the environment — for the worse. “The song is about the climate crisis, our love of the earth, and how time is really running out,” states Catherine Pockson, “The refrain ‘everything has to change” is both a plea for definitive action, and a wake-up call to those who have yet to accept the reality. If we don’t completely change our way of life within the next few years, the damage to the natural world will be irreversible – some of it already is.”
Freja Kirk is a young, up-and-coming Danish singer/songwriter and pop artist, who grew up in a musical home — her father, was a pianist at The Royal Theatre, and as a result, Kirk was exposed to an eclectic array of genres at a young age. After his death, the young, up-and-coming Danish artist felt an urge to make her own music — music that translated her pain and heartache into intimate narratives. Having struggled with her own sexuality and identity, Kirk believes that she’s now in a place, where she can bring this narrative — and in turn, that aspect of her own life — to the forefront of her music. “Thing is, I really need people to see me as a man. And it really makes it complicated to be me sometimes because I don’t want to BE a man, but I want people to see me as one. I don’t feel the need to fit into that ‘girl box’. I don’t understand why it’s harder to live like that, but it is,” Kirk says in press notes.
Kirk’s debut single “Fine Things” is an incredibly self-assured sensual celebration of queer love, centered around a sparse and hyper contemporary production featuring hi-hat led percussion, a sinuous bass line, twinkling and wobbling synths paired with Kirk’s breathy and sultry cooing to create a song that sounds heavily indebted to 90s R&B — in particular, Aaliyah and SWV immediately come to mind.