The British singer-songwriter is best known for her soft and melodic Pop songs like ‘Put Your Records On’ and ‘Like a Star’ but her new album showcases a different side to Bailey Rae — her biggest artistic challenge to date.
‘Black Rainbows’ has been years in the making as Bailey Rae was inspired by her visit to the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago, saying her life changed forever the moment she walked through its doors.
The collection has such a rich and diverse archive, and Bailey Rae’s music mirrors its versatility and range. Songs like ‘New York Transit Queen’ and ‘Erasure’ are raw and punk; whereas, ‘Peach Velvet Sky’ and ‘Red Horse’ are more melodic.
“There wasn’t a way of staying in one mood or feeling, I wanted to bounce around and have a different mixture of energy,” said Bailey Rae.
Many of the artifacts in the collection relate to Black history, including some troubling items like ‘Negrobilia’— collectibles that portray stereotypes of Black people. These artifacts were collected by Edward Williams, who went around vintage shops to buy them and remove them from circulation.
Bailey Rae said how many of these collectibles were ingrained into the culture and were normalized in society.
“This thinking was so normal, that it wasn’t questioned in certain spaces. It’s really evidence of what happens when a mainstream culture holds a particular unchallenged philosophy and the objects that are made around that philosophy and how we get to see this played out and the effects of that,” said the artist.
The singer-songwriter also took inspiration from this collection to write songs such as ‘Erasure’, which talks about the erasure of Black childhood. This is seen in the archive through photographs of Black children in adult situations or dangerous situations like being chased by alligators.
The artist talked about this whilst using the example of Tamir Rice, the 12 year-old African American who was shot by the police after playing with a toy pistol.
“What is the long term effect of a culture that doesn’t value black children?” said Bailey Rae. “We are swimming in a culture that doesn’t really see Black children as children, It sees them as less innocent and more dangerous. The long term effects of this are that some adults don’t regard these children as having the same rights or same kind of makeup.”
Bailey Rae believes that making this album was artistically freeing, saying the possibilities are limitless.
“It has been a transformative thing because you never know what’s going to lead to your next album. Instead of thinking that music has to come from my own personal experiences and mining my heart for things that I’ve been through, it’s good to know that music can come from anywhere. I’ve given myself permission to allow my interest to come into my music,” she said.
Bailey Rae, currently on tour, said she was purposeful when choosing which ventures to perform in, opting for more intimate theatres—like Philly’s Theatre of Living Arts—as it should create an immersive and intense experience.
“There is so much rawness and the energy but then there’s also songs that are really trippy, so it could be really transcendent if we get that right. In our rehearsals we just tried to get lost in it and that’s what we’re hoping for the audience, too.”
Corinne Bailey Rae will perform at Theatre of Living Arts on Sept. 8. For information and tickets, visit corinnebaileyrae.com/tour