White Tiger is available at:
22 October, 2015
Soul; Jazz; Funk-Pop
BRINGING to a close a great run of terrific female solo artists…
is someone who is definitely on the rise right now. Before I come to my featured artist; it is worth talking about London’s variety of music; the big names that have been tipped for 2016- in addition to genre cross-pollination and its effectiveness. I have touched on London’s music and how impressive the last year was. As a whole, the mainstream did not throw up too many unexpected treats. Perhaps less consistent/reliable as previous years; my attention was drawn to the underground and the musicians working down there. In past years, it was Yorkshire that produced the most diverse and sensational music- it still stamping-out some wonderful musicians to be fair. Last year was defined by London’s hegemony and imperialism. The music coming from the capital is as strong as any previous year- resurgence has taken place. Whereas other parts of the U.K. are known for the great bands coming through- Liverpool and Manchester especially- London is more adept when it comes to their solo talent. I am not sure what has motivated such a turn-about and rise: maybe the musicians of London are starting to feel the competition; maybe it is just a particularly good year- whatever the reason, music is benefiting hugely. In addition to the quality coming through; the consistency and range of sounds is amazing. When I look at solo artists coming through; they seem a lot more agile and innovative than peers from around the U.K. From street-level beats and tongue-watering Rap masters to Electro.-Pop queens; the incredible Soul voices and the Folk gems- there is pretty much anything for anyone. Before I get onto some new points, it is worth talking about my featured act.
Izzy Bizu was born in South-West London to an Ethiopian mother and English father. Recently having been tipped as one of B.B.C.’s ones-to-watch for 2016- where she joins the likes of Billie Marten- Bizu spent her childhood listening to the likes of James Brown and Ella Fitzgerald. Drawing these together with modern idols- Amy Winehouse and Adele especially- and she produces a stunning mix of Soul, Pop and Jazz- that is getting critics talking and fans near-hyperventilating. In 2013 she released her debut E.P. Coolbeanz: it sold 50,000 copies and made it to number 3 on the iTunes chart. Into 2014 and Bizu was selected to perform at Glastonbury- as part of B.B.C.’s Introducing competition- and has appeared on Later… with Jools Holland and T.F.I. Friday. Citing the likes of Sam Cooke and The Black Keys among her influences; you get an artist that has a wide range of tastes of music- all represented and stirred into a boiling pot of heady entrance and beautiful aftertaste. Later this year she released her debut album A Moment of Madness- a chance for the Londoner to really spread her wings and show what she is made of. With kudos and patronage being paid; critics and radio stations raving- she has had her music played across national playlists- this year will see the 21-year-old rise to prominence.
Izzy Bizu is one of the most arresting and stunning artists coming through at the moment. Her music draws from the ‘60s and ‘70s; brings in some modern-day sounds- making sure her original voice and direction is the lasting impression. It is no surprise Bizu has managed to hit so hard and left such an impression- she is an artist that understands the importance of mixing genres and sounds. Too many artists are limited and stale from the very first moments. Unless you have a planet-straddling voice or Bob Dylan-esque lyrics; you are never going to truly win people over keeping your sound one-dimensional and rigid. Being inspired by the greats of Soul and Jazz; you get that smokiness and sensuality in the voice. The likes of Adele and Amy Winehouse- with their powerhouse voices and stunning majesty- have resonated with the Londoner. She manages to sound original and fresh whilst reminding you of those who inspired her- no wonder a huge range of ages and fans have fallen for her music. There is a lot of expectation and pressure on her shoulders at the moment. Having topped end-of-year lists; having appeared on T.V. and radio- it is quite a meteoric rise; everything has happened so fast. Although she has been performing music for a few years; the last few months have been the busiest and most glittering- let’s hope 2016 affords her a chance to take some control and relax. Given music’s commercial expectations; let’s hope Bizu gets chance to breathe and reflect a little- before the demands and rigours of the festival circuit and T.V. appearances. The genre-fusing songwriter has enthralled the music world already; it is only going to get bigger and better for her- I cannot wait to see what this year holds in store. It seems this year the innovatiors are being favoured. If you look at the end-of-year lists and artists tipped to be big; they are synonymous with their originality and inventiveness. In past year huge-voiced stars like Adele and Sam Smith have been favoured. This year there is a drive towards vocal subtly; a preference of sonic innovation and nuance- in terms of vocals; a leaning towards beauty rather than lung-power. The artists being singled-out by the likes of B.B.C. are among the most impressive in years- young solo artists are in the majority (compared with bands) which signals a shift in public tastes and a positive sign. Bizu found a love of music through open-mic. nights- having caught the bug at a young age- and she is in love with the live environment. A place she can dish it out and chill; really be herself- she is one of the most engaging and natural live performers coming out. With White Tiger standing as her most popular song to date; there will be new music coming out- the young Londoner is back in the studio preparing for her debut album.
White Tiger is Izzy Bizu’s favoured and most-recent single. In getting a full impression- how she has developed and progressed- I have been intrigued to look back. Coolbeanz was released a couple of years back; it is a five-track E.P. that shows the young Londoner is tremendous voice. Confident and stunning from the opening notes; Butterfly blends a sweet and honey vocal with acoustic guitar- a lullaby-cum-rhyme. Flying through the trees; our heroine wants to find butterflies. A sun-kissed and summer-time jam; you get little snaps of life in London. Catching the train and wandering the parks; the song is augmented by a crystal-sharp and gorgeous vocal- often floats into wordless purity- that gives the song an almost child-like quality. Skipping and upbeat; jumping and catchy- there is essence of Amy Winehouse. It may sound a cliché trope but that Winehouse-esque smokiness and cigarette-weathered voice adds soulfulness to the honeyed and bird-like vocal. An instant stunner; you get encapsulated in the imagery and colours being projected- allow yourself to drift away and float through the air. Calorically concise and disciplined; the song is a short and spectacular effort with no needless garnish and beats- just Bizu and a guitar; entangled in a lustful and harmonious blend.
High Road starts a little more urgently and spiked. A flamenco-style guitar leads to a stunningly smooth and soulful vocal. The song investigates the future and what it holds (our heroine is unsure); climbing mountains with her subjects- whether a boyfriend or friend- they are aiming high and working their way forward. Whereas Butterfly has a sweet and fairy-light vocal; here is more breathless and fast-flowing- embers of Winehouse come through once more. The frantic energy and brilliant guitar backing gives the track such vibrancy and exotic flair. The fresh and breezy vocal makes the song seep into the mind and conspire the imagination- another song that is remarkably powerful in its subtlety. Again it is a concise and relatively-short number that elicits a huge hit without being loquacious and verbose. Bizu mixes high notes and lower tones; letting her voice swallow-dive and mutate- giving the song such emotional gravitas and instancy. One of the E.P.’s finest tracks; it showcases the heroine’s voice in full flight.
Deep Blue Sea begins with an intriguingly romantic guitar sounds. Serene and seductive; it beckons you in with its sensuality. Our heroine arrives with her most arresting and urgent vocal on the set. Having found herself in the deep blue sea- lost her way- her lover has shot her blind. Having been heartbroken and betrayed; she is adrift in a sea of confusion and heartache- that exorcism is coming through loud and clear. Backing vocals and finger-clicks give the song added momentum and layers- giving it a cool-edged strut and weight. One of the E.P.’s longer tracks it is one of the most layered and busy tracks- in terms of the vocal for sure. That indelible and hypnotic chorus is employed as a mantra: almost chanted; it is re-introduced to tremendous effect- one of the catchiest and memorable codas I have heard in a long while. Embers of Sam Cooke and Soul greats come out in the vocal- it is one of the most spectacular vocals from the young artist. In spite of the heavy subject matter and anxiety; the song is never anything less that upbeat and hopeful- it does not descend into maudlin territory or lose any momentum at all. Energised and motivated; Deep Blue Sea has a live-sounding quality that makes it sound even more electrifying and pure. Being so young and new-to-the-game- the E.P. was released in 2013- there are no nerves or uncertainties in the song. Bizu sounds completely in-control and natural; at one with the song and enticing throughout- that voice gets headier and more delicious as the song progresses.
Fool’s Gold starts with a piano flourish- superseding expectations- to provide the most grand and romantic opening on the E.P. Stately and heart-breaking, it is a beautiful introduction that leads to the E.P.’s most gripping vocal. Recalling heartache and duplicity; you hear of a boy who was disingenuous and a fake. Cheating, lying and being a loser; the lad was just fool’s gold- not the real thing or worth a penny. Trying to hide her anger and disgust; the song lays down the law and lets her feelings out- putting the boot to a boyfriend (or chancer) that was not worth the trouble. Again the topic matter is quite hard-hitting and raw. Bizu never descends to juvenile threats and immaturity; the vocal never gets mordant and introverted- there is always energy and powerful that radiates through. Again the heroine fuses swooning high notes with raw notes to create a dizzying sound and intoxicating smoke- that makes the song drunkening and compulsive. Blending Soul cores with Jazz and Reggae (the chorus has a Reggae vibe to it) and you have a song that defies neologism- to try and define exactly what it is all about/says.
Broken Man ends the E.P, back with guitar-and-voice combination. One of the most haunted songs; we hear images of broken glasses outside doorways; a figure that is down-on-their-luck- and in need of salvation. Walking on the dark side- where life used to be beautiful- there is violence and decay; danger and uncertainty on these streets- a figure whose former glories are so far away. Living on “borrowed time” and you get a hero that has squandered chances for love and redemption. The vocal here is multi-tracked and swelling- to augment those feels of unrest and downtrodden luck. The brevity of Broken Man works wonders; it makes you want more by the end- a song that packs a huge punch in a short time. That free-flowing and freewheelin’ voice takes every lyric and turns it into a sermon- one of the most accomplished and nuanced performances from the young star. By the final notes you drink all the images in and try to picture the story together- it ends a tremendous and memorable E.P.
Since Coolbeanz, Izzy Bizu has kept her vocal purity and sound intact; the production values have changed on White Tiger. Whereas the E.P. had a great live sound and raw feel to it; White Tiger is more polished and galvanised- perhaps signaling the intent and desire of the mainstream. Given the subject matter and sounds of the song; the production sound is necessary- if it were sparse and slight the song would not hit as hard. The piano, guitar and vocal combinations are there, yet Bizu has increased in confidence and sounds even more alive- her voice at its peak here. White Tiger keeps that reliably upbeat and refreshing mixture solid- our heroine is not one to revert to downbeat and sour- and it continues where Coolbeanz left off. Whilst exploring new subject matter and insight; the song could easily have fitted on the E.P. – the vocal delineation and composition is similar. Whilst familiar and levelled at existing fans, the track aims to draw in new support and listeners. Given the paen of B.B.C. Radio One and mainstream stations, Bizu has slightly adapted her sound to reflect the mainstream tastes- the production is more suited to those desires. Coolbeanz had that classic bedroom-made sound that so many artists start out with- authentic and pure; with no radio station or playlist in mind. White Tiger has that confidence and potential laced into its D.N.A.; as such it signals a big step and stand from Bizu- I can see future tracks displaying a similar confidence and direction.
From the first seconds that song title is chorused and declared. Our heroine’s voice is sharp and sprite; it has such an energy and passion to it- beautifully soulful and hugely powerful. In the early stages it is not clear what the ‘white tiger’ is as such. Whereas most Izzy Bizu songs feature the voice-and-guitar combination; here the first distinct sound is from the piano- giving the track a Jazz-tinged and spirited birth. The lyrics beg for interpretation and speculation as they are delivered. After the song title is delivered we get “high-bright roller-coaster”- perhaps a person is being attested here. Whether metaphors for love and passion; the choice of language is very unique and memorable. Your mind is dragged in different directions. If the opening words take your mind from anthropocentric realms; the roller-coaster takes it somewhere new entirely. Maybe representing strength and courage; the dizzying excitement and love one can provide- all of these thoughts are swirling through our heroine’s mind. There is a drunkenness and lack of control that comes out in the lyrics. Part love-based and part-drunk-and-down; White Tiger begs for various interpretations and angles. In the opening exchanges you are compelled by that stirring piano line; the idiosyncratic and swooning vocals- that have some familiar strands to them- alongside some oblique and startling images. When our heroine talks about a hard wind hitting her skin; being out of her comfort zone- again that could beg for multiple interpretations. Taken on the face of it; it seems like Bizu recalls a time(s) she was out of control and reckless- perhaps trying to numb herself from the pressures and pains of the world. On the other hand, it is hard not to read into subtext and subconciousness- maybe there are elements of love and headiness that comes with it. As with Coolbeanz; there is that combination of negative subject matter and positive composition. A lot of the E.P.’s songs looked at loneliness and hurt; self-destruction and confusion- although there were plenty of uplifted and redemptive moments too. The compositions are always effusive and cheery giving the music juxtaposition and contrasts. If the music were downbeat and fatigued it would give the music a depressing quality- alienate a lot of listeners and not give an appropriate platform for that staggering voice. The song has a nebulous quality, whereby you get caught up in the smokiness and out-of-body sound. Our heroine is struggling to find breath and discover necessary gravity; there is a headiness and delirium to the lyrics. Whereas one half of your brain looks at drunkening nights and self-abandonment; the other cannot help but attribute the lyrics to love and pure romance. The lyrics about “When I wake up but not alone now” and “Whoa, my head is in the clouds” you cannot help but feel something purer and more impassioned is being ascribed.
At every avenue that vocal does full justice to the lyrics. At once child-like and merry; the next it transforms into something lip-lick and near-explosion in terms of its seductiveness. That mix of sexy and sensual pronunciations; tied with the coquettish and gurly (sic.) contrasts- it brings the song to life and showcases a singer with a terrific grasp on dynamics and emotions. Before the one-minute mark we get the biggest sign to say Izzy Bizu has grown and changed since her E.P.: a heavy and hard beat- Dance-like and R&B-influenced- brings huge energy and pummel to the song. Whereas Coolbeanz never got as heavy and pulsating as this- relying on beauty and instrumental discipline- here Bizu has expanded her palette and sound; the polished production demands new elements- this foot-stomping beat is just the panacea. Whereas contemporaries employ bromides by the dozen; our heroine chooses her languages carefully and precisely- her words are much more powerful and original than most artists I have heard. By the time the chorus comes in you get a hugely addictive sound and vocal- the most compelling and memorable choruses Izzy Bizu has come up with. A denizen of stunning quality and passion; it is that insatiable and irascible voice (in a musical way) that gets inside your head. You cannot resist but fall in love with those tones and that silky vocal- part-Amy Winehouse; always completely mesmeric and beautiful. Our heroine has “made it” and the safety bars are still on- inside that rollercoaster simile- which keeps making me thinking of love. Whether recounting alcohol-fueled mayhem or the giddiness and firs bloom of love; White Tiger becomes more intriguing and compelling. It is not until later in the song that the true origin reveals itself: the drunken slumber and ill-discipline. With my mind taken away from oeuvres of love and romance; you galvanise your thoughts to focus on this revelation- “drunken ways take control”. Whatever has influenced this binging and drinking I am not sure- one feels it may come off the back of a relationship breakdown. When our heroine was drowning, “you were keeping me afloat”- is it the muse of alcohol or the heart of a man that was doing this? Clearly trying to escape some hurt and inner-regret; you get the feeling a friend or sweetheart is in the mix- keeping them leveled and sane. Or maybe everything is about the booze: the fact it can create false comfort and the idea of safety. It is a song whose words have been picked to get people guessing and speculating- rather than going straight to avenues of obviousness. In the final moment that head-swinging chorus sounds even more additive and multifarious. You get caught in the beat and swagger of the vocal; the uplifting fun and fizz of the vocal. Like Elizabeth Fraser, Kate Bush and Bjork- some very distinct vocalists- Bizu lets her voice twist and turn; switching from child-like sweet to woman-like sensuous within a few seconds. Too many singers are too restrained and idea-less in their vocal projections- our heroine has one of the most adaptable and versatile voices in all of music. Seeking dry land and anchor; this white tiger- it is the name of particularly tasty vodka- is keeping Bizu comforted and controlled. Into the final moments, the brain whirls in a centrifuge of speculation and second-guessing. A wonderfully impressive songwriter; you cannot accuse the lyrics of being unschooled- even if the unfolding events are somewhat. In the final seconds, our heroine brings the mood down and lets her voice conclude- descending into Soul territory to evoke huge emotion and a wonderful conclusion. At its most pure and hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck; it is a wonderfully crystal and gorgeous swansong.
Congratulations must first be handed to the song’s producer (could not find it on YouTube alas) who has managed to bring life and atmosphere to the song- without betraying Izzy Bizu’s honed sound and personality. Not too polished or vulgar; you have a production that brings everything fully to life- managing not to mix anything too low. Too many bands and artists have vocals mixed too low- so they are unintelligible and lacking volume- or mute the instruments. Here there is an authoritative feel and each element has been considered and beautifully blended- leading to a song that has such balance and vibrancy. Every instrument element pops and fizzes; the vocal is allowed to reign and seduce- it does so with effortlessness throughout. White Tiger is a slight departure from the Coolbeanz-days sound. Whilst the vocal sound is not a million miles away; the composition strays from the acoustic-led flavor to something bolder and more beat-heavy. Maybe primed and calculated for mainstream indispensability; one would like to think (the sonic development) is a natural evolution and a confidence stride. This all bodes well for the forthcoming album. Whether Bizu brings those acoustic early-days numbers together with White Tiger-esque sounds; it will be exciting to see what is coming. The biggest applause must be directed as Bizu who has excelled here. As a lyricist White Tiger stands as one of her most intruding and personal numbers. Perhaps recalling youthful indiscretions and folly- or something based in the present-day- you get a track that prompts you to imagine and immerse yourself in its lines. The vocal here is more subtle than some previous numbers; the histrionic range expertly presented- there is greater vocal depth and colour than before. From the Soul evocations of Sam Cooke and Ella Fitzgerald; the modern-legend panache of Amy Winehouse; through to the sounds and sensations of her London contemporaries- you have a song that sounds completely essential and compulsory. Let’s hope it forms the basis of A Moment of Madness– it would be an appropriately-named opening track. This year will be a mighty one for the Barnes native: she gets stronger by the year and is on the horns of mainstream transition. When she plays the big festivals come summer- there will be venues knocking down her door- I expect White Tiger will be a firm favourite among the masses. A confident and utterly blissful moment from one of the U.K.’s most exciting and prodigious young singers. I cannot wait to see where this year takes her. From all the hype and speculation that has built; I can only imagine she will be topping charts and becoming a mainstay fixture of the mainstream radiowaves.
Having gleamed interviews Bizu never thought she would come this far. Having kept diaries from a young age- scribbled poetry and notes- this love of music and words was always there. Propelled by the music of her tender years- those peerless voices and artists- it has led to a career with passion, purpose and potential. Bizu has not really had a chance to be nervous or figure out what to do this year. Ensconced in a blizzard-storm of publicity and appearances; the young songwriter has barely let her feet touch the floor. I guess it is only to be expected when you consider the plaudits she has gained every station and magazine wants to get inside her head; she just what motivates that wonderful music. White Tiger is one side into a musical progeny with so many personality shades and voices- an artist who is incredibly mobile and diverse. Being inspired by a huge range of artists- there is no straight line between The Black Keys and Ella Fitzgerald- our heroine manages to hang these (albeit, disparate) musicians together; lacing-in her inimitable and spectacular voice- creating a mesmeric sound that few of her contemporaries possess. Bizu left school (music school) at 17 and took on a part-time job: a gritty and low-income life that motivated her to write songs in her one-bedroom flat. The free-spirit and straight-talking Londoner is more honest, raw and real than any other act I have come across. She is not profane or glib; she has a down-to-Earth personality that makes her personable and relatable.
There are no made-for-the-press soundbites and cliché answers. With every interview and answer you can hear that accent come out; a witty and sassy young woman who speaks her mind and knows her heart- you get fascinating tidbits and revelations from a gorgeous and multi-talented young musician. It appears that this year is going to be defined by hungry and ambitious young solo artists. In previous years the boys have grabbed the critical attention; into 2016 we are going to see the girls rule and stun- the female solo realm is the one favoured by critics this year. With the likes of Izzy Bizu out there, it is no surprise really. A Moment of Madness is all-but-done- in fact it is probably completed already- and Bizu developed the songs from jams; they are reflections on her past and personality- songs about people close to her and those who support her daily. Before wrapping this up, I wanted to circle to my original points- the music emanating from the capital; the importance of sonic diversity- with a little word about the South-West Londoner. Genre-fusing is a delicate art but something that can- when handled with expertise and intuitiveness- lead to some of the best music out there. I am a huge fan of Jazz legend Miles Davis. If you consider the range and technicality he produced; the exceptional quality on his albums- so many young artists are bypassing a potentially-huge icon. From the crazy-and-cool mix of Bitches Brew– and the psychotropic performances throughout- the suave and romantic sways of Sketches of Spain– the majesty and peerlessness of Kind of Blue; Birth of the Cool’s cool-as-f*** kick. Take John Coltrane’s spiritual masterpiece A Love Supreme. If pure Jazz is not your bag; try some Jazz-Rock from (one of my favourite acts) Steely Dan- the cutting and witty lyrics; the unbelievable musicianship. I fear too few musicians are dipping into the past in an original and forward-thinking way. Too many artists are lazily tossing-off Led Zeppelin rewrites and half-arsed Oasis redux.
The consciousness of a lot of musicians does not stretch beyond the 1990s, sad to say (although it was music’s finest decade). Bizu is an artist who has is intelligent enough to recognise doing what everyone else does- and therefore is a waste of time- is not the way to do it. I believe the most successful artists from this year are those that push the envelope and really take a chance. There is a galaxy of music out there; phenomenal sounds almost virginal in their re-interpretation- why settle for cliché and tried-and-tested sounds? London is leading a noble charge right now; its up-and-coming young are showing the U.K. what they are made of- there is far less prevalence on the band market. The solo artists are among the most original and appealing I have ever heard. One of the finest coming out of the capital is the 21-year-old Izzy Bizu. She is my kind of girls. She is a pizza and football-loving girl; she has a dog called Teddy (me too); she loves poetry and yearns for an early night- I am the oldest 32-year-old around. She is grounded and mature but still has a reckless streak and a teenage energy. Loving raves and crazy nights-in; Bizu is drinking-in the fun, cosmopolitanism and potential London offers every day- making the most of things. The Amy Winehouse-devote- the one artist who she will listen to time again- it seems the two artists have a lot in common. Whether Izzy Bizu experiences that same transcendent rise- without the pitfalls of fame and media obsessiveness- will be interesting to see. I hope she keeps level-headed for now and enjoys the moments of normality life affords- in the next few years her diary will have no free days on it! Although Bizu has a vintage lobe to her brain- she has one foot in the past among the legends of music; the heyday of Soul- she is very much a modern-age girl. That golden honey voice has been enforced by Soul greats such as Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye; her objectives and album have plenty of of-the-moment strands and sounds. There is eclecticism and consistency in equal measures; one eye to the skylines of London’s; another to the horizons and the world at large. It is clear she will be in demand and have international dates piling up. I would love to see Izzy Bizu play in London; I expect she will be getting requests from the U.S. and farther still- her bedroom floor will be a rotation of holiday clothes and souvenirs from the road. It’s all chill (in her words) as this is what she has worked for and what she does- everything is slotting into place and taking shape. Before leaving I recommend you check-out White Tiger and keep your eyes trained to the 21-year-old. She deserves huge admiration and support so- to finish this baby up- in the words of Sam Cooke: “Bring your sweet loving…
BRING it on home to me”.
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