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We love that Beyoncé turns heads belting tunes in beautiful elaborate costumes as Sasha Fierce. Katy Perry may be a boxer, butterfly or beautiful alien depending on the occasion. Lady Gaga surprises us every time she walks out on the street or stage. But as original as these incredibly talented women are there is a rise of the unexpectedly unique performer that is snatching the spotlight with their voices and fashion.
Laura Mvula is a UK artist that slid from across the pond and in to America with a rock/alternative mixture of a voice. She is a café songstress with rock appeal that dissolves any barriers of what she should sing or should look like which makes her more intriguing as an individual and artist. She openly recognizes that she is not the average perception of beauty through her song That’s Alright, although we disagree. However it brings to point that the world is changing with the ‘weird’ women at the helm that lead the fashion and music industry.
‘ I will never be what you want and that’s alright, Cause my skin ain’t light and my body ain’t tight. And that’s alright…Tell me who made you the center of the universe’
(Lyrics from That’s Alright)
Laura Mvula has found a way to perfectly blend African fashion with modern chic. The trend of blending cultural prints or styles and chic looks evolves every season. Such a trend is a confidence booster for people of color who can represent their roots in a modern ‘acceptable’ way. Being a UK artist and not falling in line with the ‘pop mold’ would usually kill a new artist career, however these days weird is in and sending a message to all to be whoever you are with class.
Janelle Monae is another artist that broke out of the ‘pop mold’ with a ‘funky’ factor that paid tribute to her custodial service lineage and artists such as James Brown. She embraces a feminine/masculine appearance that is both stylish and bold. From her bedazzled heels that represent the ‘pop factor’ to her black and white suit that she dances and belts out in. The first time I saw Janelle Monae at Clark Atlanta University my immediate thought was, ‘ She is too different and will only be a small but entertaining artist.’ I shamefully admit those thoughts and am pleasantly surprised with her growth as an artist and style icon. Her lyrics are just as bold as her clothing choice that has inspired so many from around the world to style themselves to make a power statement.
What are we supposed to do with you? You are too different. These words sparked the inspiration behind the song Clown by Scotland artist Emile Sandè. She walked in front of studio executives who didn’t know whether she was pop, r&b, funk, etc., and almost dropped her because they couldn’t place her. What they found was she could be all of those things through songs like Clown, Mountains, My Kind Of Love and fan favorite Heaven. She chose to embrace all of those musical styles and add soul that distinguished her from other artists. The lyrics in her music can apply to any part of life, including spirituality which is not as popular in the entertainment culture outside of the Gospel genre. Her style could be considered a punk-rock look that is growing in popularity amongst people of color and has inspired youth and adults to not stick to ‘ethnic appropriate’ fashion.
Our women of color are no longer just soul or pop singers, we are as diverse in our music and style as we are in the range of shades that make up the beauty of the world. Yes we still love our Pop singers that can make us party, but we love our soul songstresses that found a new melody to make the world pay attention to their voices. Artists are no longer able to be cookie cutter performers to have long lasting success and that is a beautiful evolution of entertainment led by these ladies who are the new center of the universe.