2017’s cup runneth over with good music, of all kinds.
From fun to enlightening. From singing to rapping.
From our hometown to yours and everywhere in between, we are dedicating the month of December to reviewing and reflecting on the music that helped make this year so important.
Writing about Jessie Reyez’s "Kiddo" is so difficult that I have been putting it off since April. After watching countless YouTube videos of Reyez and listening to every one of her songs, I have avoided talking about any of it. Occasionally on social media and here or there in a music mix were the only times I really acknowledged Jessie Reyez or “Kiddo”. Then someone asked me for a list of my top R&B albums of 2017, “Kiddo” was right there. No hesitation. Almost subconsciously, “Kiddo” had become a part of my life. Parts of the album make me turn it off, every time. But I always go back to listen again. Either immediately, later that week or months from then, I always go back for that feeling. For all of the feelings. “Kiddo” is so honest and relatable that it’s been impossible for me to avoid. Those same qualities put it in a place that made it uncomfortable to talk about. Jessie Reyez is a musician. A singer, a songwriter. Jessie Reyez is a woman. Jessie Reyez is a woman making music. She made “Kiddo”. “Kiddo” directly expresses the feelings we are so accustomed to experiencing, in a new light; then back doors to tear off the cover on the ones we are conditioned to completely disregard our entire lives.
“Kiddo” opens with Jessie Reyez giving a preface to what’s coming, speaking so slowly and softly about a car crash that it feels like she’s describing heaven. F**k It turns into the story of her crashing what is presumed to be an ex’s car, but, f**k it. “I should have rolled it.” Shutter Island alludes to a fictional island that houses a mental institution. In it Reyez describes begging someone for their love even after they’ve deceived her. She also depicts how a deceptive person projecting the idea of her being crazy made her a whole new level of crazy, ending it with “I guess you were right...” After getting comfortable with the depth and tone of Reyez’ voice over smooth, haunting sounds, Blue Ribbon shakes the table. Reyez is almost rapping. Her voice personifies a sound of exasperation. As she is singing, she’s singing in a completely opposite tone with a whole new cadence and delivery backed by techno production, nothing like the last two songs. But it works. Once you get into it and you hear what she’s saying, it feels right. “You could keep that shit the fuck over there, please.”
Following the beautiful chaos of Blue Ribbon is Figures and Gatekeepers. The two songs that founded my hesitation to discuss “Kiddo”. I heard these songs and I didn’t want to talk about them. I wanted to listen to them though. And I have been, for months. Listening to them, singing them, relating to them. But never discussing them. Using them to recognize and address things in myself that I didn’t completely understand. As different as Figures and Gatekeepers are, they unearthed the same level of emotion. Discussing the specifics of either song in depth is still not comfortable for me to but I will eventually get there and I absolutely suggest that everyone listen to them, at least once.
Colombian King & Queen pay homage to Jessie Reyez’s Colombian roots, to her parents. Without assuming too much, “Kiddo” sounds like the product of someone who has been made familiar and knowledgeable about music from conception. Reyez knows the in and outs of music. This interlude feels comfortable. For 43 seconds the weight of the rest of the album is displaced. Colombian King & Queen makes me smile, and feel like Reyez comes from a place where music is a place she finds a home in. All the sudden an album that made me feel too uncomfortable to discuss felt like home and Great One left the porch light on for me. The unsure and uncomfortable feelings “Kiddo” brought out of me were turned into a feelings of purpose when I heard Great One. Great One ends “Kiddo” with a feeling of the need to manifest ever feeling she took me through from the first second of F**k It. Great Ones feels like desire and direction.
As I continue to revisit “Kiddo”, I want to discuss it more and more. What initially made me turn it off is what keeps me coming back to it, now. Jessie Reyez’s voice creates a sound that instantly invokes a feeling. A feeling that changes with each song on “Kiddo”. Her voice resonates from the inside and every word she sings or says is full of intention. Jessie Reyez’s songwriting takes me on a dive into the places of my mind that I know about but leave undiscovered. The style of production on “Kiddo” is intentional, it paints a landscape for Reyez’s voice and songwriting ability to be fully expressed. Combined, every aspect of “Kiddo” builds a place to go that understands and inspires me.
On the cover of “Kiddo” there is a young girl, dressed in school uniform with a balloon covering her face. The balloon, to me, represents a hesitation to reveal myself to the world. A hesitation that makes me want to cover up my face with a balloon. As women, offering our feelings on a silver platter often ends up exhausting and fruitless. From the time we learn feeling we learn to avoid it, ignore it or box it up in a way that is presentable to others. “Kiddo”, on the other hand, is everything women were told wasn't safe. Or presentable. Or acceptable. And it is as truly amazing as it is liberating. “Kiddo” is a 20 minute long EP. An intimate offering of Jessie Reyez. And with her offering, I am able to acknowledge all those undiscovered, undisclosed places of myself and discover them, with a flashlight.