There’s lots of electronic soul hybrid stuff out there at the moment, including a new track from one of my standout debuts of 2012, Jessie Ware. If you’re going to stick out from the crowd of Young Turks legends (Sampha) and Pitchfork-endorsed chanteuses (Kelela, BANKS), there has to be something about you that really grabs the audience’s attention. I’m not sure what that is about Billie Black, a 19 year-old London native sent my way by my secret weapon at Universal Music, but it’s definitely there. I’ve played ‘I Don’t Need Another Lover’ about as many times as I played Tirzah’s ‘I’m Not Dancing’ when I first heard it, though they’re from completely different backgrounds. It’s a great piece of slick British production, to be sure. But there’s something else in there.
So here’s the thing about Billie Black, aside from her being exceptionally young and undeniably from the same Brit School that’s somehow gifted us more musical talent over the last ten years than the rest of the country combined; she’s not hiding behind much. While many of the neu-new crop of R&B shapeshifters rely as heavily on electronics for vocal manipulation as they do accompaniment, Black’s got nothing but reverb in her corner. Not that she needs much else. The alluring part of Black’s delivery is that she can sustain control over long notes without needing to twist them. Confidence (at least from all appearances) seems to come standard, as if Black is a seasoned singer walking into an updated ’90s pop arrangement. While her bio indicates that she’s been performing since 13, particularly in jazz – perhaps whose ballads she takes her command of epression from – this is nonetheless a seriously impressive debut.
I wish I hadn’t found out that Billie Black went to The Brit School, because I feel like that label taints artists now. It comes with the expectation of being able to jump boundaries and immediately become a best seller in your field, when really all I want is to keep seeing Black putting out tunes like this. Production team The Imposters have done a fine job of reviving some of the best sounds of mega-selling stars in the Spice Girls era. From sunburst synths, sidechained bass and those almost taser-style electric samples, the song moves slowly but crackles with energy. There’s a really nice treat from the bass in the Middle, as it steps down into post-dubstep territory. But even with the stellar gloss of a very Now sonic arrangement, it’s Black that does most of the convincing. Pure and adventurous, it seems like it’s only getting started. That’s a great place to be if this is your first move.
Billie Black – ‘I Don’t Need Another Lover’