Music

K. Michelle: Rebellious Soul

Michelle is searching for the means to rebel.


K. Michelle

Rebellious Soul

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2013-08-13
Amazon
iTunes

In one of K. Michelle’s earliest songs, “Fakin’ It", the R&B singer bragged about her ability to pump up male egos: “I be frontin', makin' him think he’s somethin' / Knowin' I be lyin' when I'm up, up on 'em covers.” She loves this guy, so she pretends she loves the sex, but the only thing giving her pleasure is the knowledge that she can play him easily -- “I'm so good, I should become an actress.” With an aggressive verse from Missy Elliott, circles of piano, and a driving beat, Michelle showed power and humor, the ability to thrive in a tough situation.

But what happens if you stay in the relationship for a long time and you’re still fakin’ it? At some point, you’ve got to tell the guy things aren’t working out. “Fakin’ It” came out in 2009; Michelle’s new (and debut) album, Rebellious Soul, arrives in 2013. Many of the songs still find Michelle stuck in failing relationships. Her ability to act and poke fun at the self-absorbed guys is funny, but acting forever isn’t a good long-term strategy.

Rebellious Soul alternates between feelings of helplessness and surprisingly, emphasizing the importance of providing her man with whatever he desires. In “Can’t Raise a Man", Michelle sings “you can’t raise a man, he’s already grown, what you gonna do?” And when Michelle’s lover leaves her for another woman, Michelle notes that “love can be so cold” she “can’t even hate” her rival. Sounds like Michelle needs someone to treat her right! But she’s not asking for that. When she describes a dream lover in “When I Get a Man", “he’s gonna love me” yes, but she’s also going to “cater, serve ya, give you what you deserve.”

Most of Rebellious Soul works along the same platform as “Fakin’ It” but with a lot less heft. Michelle still relies heavily on piano but show’s little interest in thump and velocity -- she’s hesitant, melancholy. She sometimes heists sounds from Mariah Carey or Kelly Rowland (“Can’t Raise a Man” evokes Rowland’s contribution to Nelly’s “Dilemma”), looking backwards instead of forwards. The music doesn’t channel the rebellion alluded to the in the album’s title.

The most troubling thing is that Michelle seems to be internalizing her problems. The forthright “I Don’t Like Me", starts with her in bed, wishing her relationship was more than just sex. She’s in a catch-22, damned if she sleeps with the guy and damned if she doesn’t, since both increase her self-disgust. She declares that she “need[s] some help.”

But Michelle is forgetting her former ways. Back in 2009, she used to manipulate men like puppets. She should take the advice she gives to others in “Can’t Raise a Man”: head for the hills. Follow the path of Kelly Rowland -- who finally overcame personal demons on her recent album by singing “let’s do this dirty laundry” -- and walk away. Then write a song about how there’re plenty of fish in the sea.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
9
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image