Black Myself



You know it when you hear it.

And I only had to hear Amythyst Kiah’s “Black Myself” once and I got it. Long before it was over.

But there’s no place for “Black Myself” in today’s music world, it falls between the cracks. Sans beats, more about melody than rhythm, even though there’s a sexual tension radiated throughout the number, “Black Myself” doesn’t qualify for hip-hop world, even though, as the title says, Amythyst Kiah is black herself.

As for pop… They want someone shiny singing platitudes with studio trickery, the sounds in that genre are built on electronic platforms and then the whole enterprise is buffed to brilliance, whereas “Black Myself” is rootsy and real, totally organic.

Actually, there’s a natural place for “Black Myself,” 70s AOR radio. That’s right, rock. “Black Myself” would sound just great in that mix, but that format no longer exists. As for the radio format known as Active Rock, the tracks on that chart are a far cry from 70s AOR, it’s mostly male and more like Metallica than Led Zeppelin, it’s all anger all the time, subtlety is out the window, and there’s more rhythm than melody.

“Black Myself” is not a new song, as a matter of fact it was nominated for a Grammy last year. Huh? Yup, I hope your Grammy nom and victory mean a lot to you, because they don’t mean much to anybody else, normally it’s just a circle jerk amongst the people in that genre, some of the most unheard music ever created has nominated and won Grammys, and most of it does not truly deserve attention, but “Black Myself” does.

That’s the thing about music, if you can explain its appeal you’re a highly-educated muso who is detached from the ethos of popular music, which is usually created by people who can’t read or write music and are playing on feel, dreams, what comes into their heads.

Now the original “Black Myself” on the album “Our Native Daughters” is good, it’s just not great, not superlative, you might not need to hear it more than once, but then we get back to the fact that you’ve never heard it to begin with. In the first decade of the twenty first century if you made it people would find it, if it was great, we eventually knew about it, but not now. And the major labels and the media spread the idea that the Top Forty is as dominant as it ever was, when nothing could be further from the truth, it has never reached fewer people and meant less, but we can’t stop reading about it and the shenanigans of the nitwits who perform this music written by committee, all the soul is excised, but there’s plenty of soul in “Black Myself.”

Sure it’s about the song, but even more important are Amythyst Kiah’s vocal chops. As soon as you hear her you’re stopped in your tracks and are paying attention, because a voice this good is rare, despite people competing on television all over the world.

So I was playing Jeff Pollack’s weekly playlist of five songs, which is the exact number, any longer and I rarely check it out, there’s just too much material. Welcome to the era of the tyranny of choice, there’s so much that we end up not buying at all, not listening to new stuff.

And I’m listening to Jeff’s playlist and I’m hearing what’s au courant, fast-forwarding through the first three numbers, but I let track four, “Black Myself” play. Once again, once Amythyst starts to sing you’re immediately woken up. And sure she’s black, and gay, but that’s got nothing to do with what you hear on the track, as a matter of fact as powerful as the lyrics are, they’re secondary to the power of the track.

This is what we used to sell. Funny how we’re into experiences but people think what the audience wants is perfection, whereas what people really want is authenticity, they want to feel the humanity, which “Black Myself” contains in spades.

So, this new, rockier version of “Black Myself” produced by Tony Berg was released over a week ago and it’s already a raging failure. It’s got 6,812 views on YouTube and 115,625 streams on Spotify. Those are the numbers of a wannabe, but Amythyst Kiah is not, a wannabe, she’s got it, the music in her. But there are so many wannabes that those who’ve got it, who are firing on all cylinders, can’t get the notice they deserve.

Amythyst Kiah is an original. Holding nothing back. The message and the music punch you right in the gut and also…

Below the belt. Rock didn’t need words to convey sex, the music itself was enough. And it’s enough in “Black Myself.”

P.S. Del Amitri never really made it on A&M, chances of them breaking through on Cooking Vinyl are nonexistent. But if you can get through the endless intro of “It’s Feelings” and the verse to the change….that change will hit you right in the heart, with that emotion of seventies country rock, even though Del Amitri is Scottish. And “Close Your Eyes and Think of England” is good too. Got to give these cats credit for soldiering on, hopefully their fans are keeping them alive, because they won’t break much wider in today’s market, but just like with “Black Myself” there’s a much wider audience for this music, it’s just that there’s a disconnect between it and the potential audience. And I’ll also go on record that these two tracks are as good, if not better, than all that music Del Amitri made when they were fighting for attention, then the band was self-conscious, they were feeling the pressure for a hit from the label, but now when no one cares they can stretch out and be who they want to be, and I dig it, and you might too. 



P.P.S. “Black Myself” is made for vinyl and big rig stereos. Vinyl is rich, this sound can’t be conveyed in the earbuds/headphones most people use today, but with full-range speakers with accuracy and punch…whew!

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