few young singers from the nascent "new school" of conscious soul possess the grace, maturity, strength and determination of amel larrieux, whose epic solo debut infinite possibilities places her in a musical niche all her own.
drawing on a wealth of influences from jazz, hip-hop, gospel and funky r&b, and with flashes of middle eastern, west african and indian ethnic styles, amel has crafted a veritable concept album that explores an endless range of promise and potential...lyrically, musically and personally. reflecting the title she chose, infinite possibilities symbolizes a challenge, not only to herself but to the self-limiting and thus incomplete definition of what is commercially identified as black music and art today.
"i'm not worried about labels," amel says when asked about the term "progressive r&b," which has been applied to many of today's artists. "some folks need them for clarity. but the definition of 'black music' should be looked at. if everyone knew how many kinds of music could technically fall under this category, its use would be more justifiable. but most people just don't know."
this feeling of holding fast to one's individuality wends its way through "shine," another dreamy, funk-laden tale of broken promises and their inevitable redemption through inner strength and faith in experience. "get up" bounces ahead over a warmed-up fender rhodes and a warning that "all you got's your pride" when it comes to dealing with negative people. compare these to the jazzy, jungle-inflected "down," which amel begins in a husky lower register portraying a road-weary vulnerabilty akin to nina simone and concludes with nearly arabesque trills. it's clear that this woman's talent for vocal expression extends well beyond her 26 years.
amel's drive to stretch the expressive capabilities of music has strengthened her resolve to change what she sees as an increasingly difficult environment for young people in search of a direction. "as a people, we have overcome so many injustices and yet still be so artistically prolific," she says. "we owe it to ourselves, and most importantly to our kids, to start taking responsibility so that they're aware of how much overall greatness and depth they come from and are capable of."
"that's also why i chose infinite possibilities as the title. i have to remind myself about what i'm here to do...i know that i only want to bring inspiration and love and good things to other people, and it's just now that i'm starting to learn who i am. so infinite possibilities is for me to remind myself: you've got to live what you write."
and with that, amel larrieux laughs almost self-consciously--perhaps at the realization of yet another truth she's learned along the way.
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