Insignificant is available at:
February 5th, 2016
Tudor Gate Records
Hannah Boleyn, Hiten Bharadia & Neil Athale (Phrased Differently)
THE last review for a few days sees me come back to one of this…
country’s blossoming artists. When reviewing female artists, I have looked at the range of sounds provided: The sort of genres blended and what the scene has to offer. I wanted to look at the voice (and its importance); the themes that influence a song- finishing off looking at how to get your music to the national radio playlists. Coming into music requires a lot of determination, grit and passion. With a lot of musicians feeling the pressure of the industry- and calling it quits after a short time- it is impressive watching artists keep pushing and growing. In the modern music scene- when it comes to solo artists at least- there seems to be an emphasis placed on the voice. Every column inch I see- when reviewing a great new artist- tends to pride the voice over lyrics and music. Perhaps it is what consumers/listeners prioritise- I like the whole package myself- but there is a lot of focus placed on the quality of the vocals. So many solo artists tend to pass you by: That vocal just does nothing and seems rather lifeless and ineffective. What really impresses me is discovering a voice that can go huge- create something scintillating and explosive- whilst able to come down into tender territory. I know it is a big ask, but I discover so many singers that have such a limited range. The voices that have mobility and range are always going to be capable of more. What is more important than anything- when assessing a voice and what it can do- is ensuring your sound is original. Too many artists are emerging that lazily mimic existing artists and put no effort into making their music unique. When it comes to Hannah Boleyn, there is not a whole lot of information/biography on her. The Facebook/Twitter accounts revolve around the music, so one has to put the pieces together somewhat- it is good to have some mystique I guess. What strikes me about Boleyn is her vocal sound: It has such a refreshing and special sound whilst bringing in shades of other artists. Inspired by the likes of Shirley Bassey, Amy Winehouse (so many female artists are these days) and Lana Del Rey; you have an artist that is rightfully gaining a lot of attention and applause. It is not just the sound of Boleyn’s voice that impresses me: Capable of presenting any emotion with complete conviction you have a natural singer that ranks among one of this country’s most impressive young artists. Every time I hear a Hannah Boleyn song you get the same impressions. No two moments sound the same at all. Every note and verse have a distinction to it; in no small part due to that exceptional voice. One of the other great things (about Boleyn) is her refusal to stick to the cliché subjects for music- heartbreak and love etc.- and her broad pen is one of her most impressive facets. Inspired by real-life events and strange moments, you get a young talent that wants to distinguish herself from her peers. In a music scene with too many heartache anthems; it is wonderful to hear a young woman who has that originality and autonomy. Many artists could take inspiration from Hannah Boleyn. The first instinct of any new songwriter is to recall heartache and broken relationships: It seems to be the staple now, so why buck the trend? That is all well and good- you need to write one or two songs like this- but so many artists do not stray away from these subjects.
The most interesting and enduring musicians are those that expand their subject matter and dig a lot deeper. I mention this point because Boleyn’s most recent track (Insignificant) looks at the unimportance of silly things- compared with life-or-death/serious issues. Dripping with emotion and truth; hardly a surprise the song has been picked up by so many and hit hard. Our heroine has enjoyed a steady rise over the last few years. With some special releases under her belt- including the album The Boleyn Affair– it seems like there is no stopping her. Whist Insignificant is taken from the album- in addition to previous singles Tough Love and Permission to Leave– it seems like 2016 will show fresh unveilings and progressions. The Boleyn Affair is nary three months old but has already captured the public imagination and some wonderful reviews. The consistency and quality throughout the album marks Boleyn as one of the U.K.’s most stunning talents. Backed by that varied and sensationally soulful voice; the terrific range of songs and lyrics- you have an album that shows just what Boleyn is made of. An impressive gauntlet and revelation; it will be fascinating to see what this year holds in store. Having gained support from B.B.C. Radio 2- Graham Norton and Terry Wogan- it got me wondering about national radio-play. A lot of artists have that ultimate goal in mind: Get their music played by the big boys of radio. Whilst there seems to be no one formula and golden rule to success- and getting music to the national radio stations- I guess you just need to ensure your music has that originality and nuance to it. Boleyn has a voice/sound that is ready-made for B.B.C. Radio 2; it can also translate to the ‘lesser’ stations like Absolute Radio and Radio X. Whilst her music is quite populist and universal; it has coolness and bite to ensure it appeals to those who prefer their music edgier and harder. It is no mean feat getting your music played by the national stations so congratulations must be given to Boleyn. With one album already released, I suppose this year will see some new music and tour dates. Given her rate of progression, it would not be surprising to see our heroine taking her music across the globe. Such a universal and lovable sound; who would bet against her taking on the U.S. and Australia for instance? That may seem like a dream right now- but hardly a stretch if you think about it- but Boleyn is focusing on the here and now. Insignificant is another revelation step from a musician that has an inimitable voice- critics seduced by its soulful power and seductiveness- with songs that mix the personal with ubiquitous.
Whilst Insignificant– like most of Boleyn’s previous output- appears on The Boleyn Affair; one can see a difference between songs. With its songs being recorded at different moments; I was fascinated to look at individual tracks and how they differ. Before doing that, I wanted to look at Cemetery: One of Boleyn’s earliest and catchiest tracks. From its endless swing and vivid lyrics, you get caught up in a voice that has such power and rawness to it. A song that brings in elements of Soul, Swing and Pop; it is such an instant and confident number. Using cemetery/grave-side imagery as metaphors for love- and burying memories deep down- it showcases a fresh and new take on the subjects of heartache and love. Throughout, Boleyn lets her voice shine and power through. A short and memorable number, it stands as one of Boleyn’s most uplifting and smile-inducing song.
No Hard Feelings– taken from The Boleyn Affair– begins with atmospheric and racing strings. When our heroine comes in; that bold and brassy voice drips with emotion and strain. It is clear she has been through some break-up and heartache. In spite of everything, there are no recriminations and accusations. It appears like there has been a clean break (of sorts) and nothing to get too angry about. Reflecting on the awkward conversations and past times- even though there is a definite regret inside our heroine- there is that compromise and acceptance. The boy was perhaps not part of a long-term plan and agenda. Not a true love for her; the break-up is being met with acceptance and maturity. Not sure if it was inspired by a real-life event from Boleyn’s past: There is plenty of conviction and truth to be found in that scintillating and dramatic vocal.
Tough Love is a song that has gained attention and popularity among social media and reviews. Such an energy and explosion comes through in the chorus. Our heroine is fed up with tough love and being told what to do. Whether documenting love or professional relationships- the control some people try to exert- there is that emancipation and breaking away. Fed up with others calling the shots; getting away from those toxic situations has enforced the song’s creation. One of the most sing-along and uplifting choruses Boleyn has created; here is a song that can get crowds and listeners singing proudly and loudly. The chorus has Pop edges and mainstream appeal whilst the composition (and verses) has its heart in Soul territory. Rumbling drum beats and orchestral string rises give the song a brilliant mix of raw emotion and upbeat defiance.
Permission to Leave is another single that has gained a lot of attention. Differing from previous numbers- and showing another side to our heroine- it begins with a harder beat and swagger composition. Edgier and more attacking than other numbers; the song soon expands and opens its wings. Looking at fights and conflicts in love- it seems like our heroine’s sweetheart has caused her anger- the track recounts some fall-out and ruction in a relationship. The track looks at twisting words and putting tests out there. A bit of cat-and-mouse takes place- our heroine wants to catch her man out- and the vocal is much more direct and determined than other numbers. Whilst boasting another big chorus, the emphasis here is on emotion and laying down the law. Inspired by something more negative and unsettling; the track is given an appropriately focused and atmospheric composition. Showing how versatile her voice is; Boleyn showcases her full emotional range across a track that seems very personal and important to her. Clearly not a woman to be taken advantage of; you have an anthem that will appeal to young women: Taking control and not letting their men get away with indiscretions and cheating. I am not sure the exact origins behind the song- whether it is taken from events in Boleyn’s past- but cannot help but be impressed by the drive and determination in the vocal. An exorcism of sorts; Permission to Leave is one of The Boleyn Affair’s most stand-out moments.
What you find with Hannah Boleyn is an artist who is restless and varied. Few of her songs sound the same: Huge range and difference can be found across an album that showcases what a talent she is. Working with various songwriters has led to music that works across various themes and genres. What impresses me most- apart from the composition and lyrical variation- is that voice which continues to amaze and impress long after the song has finished. Whilst a consistent and solid album; there is still a lot of variation and diversity within the songs. A lot of artists produce an album with songs that all sound similar: It can be off-putting and mean the record does not have much staying power and nuance. What you get with Hannah Boleyn is an artist with huge range and myriad ideas- it will lead to a very varied and long career.
Differing itself from many of The Boleyn Affair’s tracks; Insignificant gets underway with a gentle piano line and something quite tender. In other numbers, Boleyn gets songs underway with a brash and brassy composition: Fusing Soul and Pop into something direct and hard-hitting. Given the importance and significance of the track; we get something more restrained and light early-on. Right from the first words you understand just what the song is trying to say. Our heroine doesn’t sweat if she misses the bus: Willing to stand in the rain; there are more important things to concern herself with. Letting her voice pack emotional punch and soul- whilst keeping itself restrained and tender- our heroine documents a variety of situations. If her clothes get wet then there is nothing to worry about. If she loses her job then there are no concerns (I would be pretty stressed personally); against the focus of larger issues, these minor things seem insignificant. It is hard not to think of Amy Winehouse when the opening lyrics come to play. That distinct and smoky sound mixes with something powerful and vulnerable; a vocal blend that gives the words such a weight and passion. When our heroine looks at the troubles and concerns of everyday life- being late for work and the commute stress- they pale when compared to the bigger strifes and horrors. I know Boleyn was inspired to write the song after a loved one of hers was admitted to hospital. After that event happened, everything else seemed rather small and pointless. Few artists take a hard and challenging time and funnel it into music and something positive. Not only does Insignificant deal with concerns and life philosophy with maturity and intelligence; it also showcases one of Boleyn’s most accomplished and stunning vocals to date. The song originates from Boleyn’s horror upon learning the news- that a close relation was sick- and in that moment realised nothing else matters. Every other stupid annoyance took a back seat to something more urgent and important. Plinking strings and haunting strings support the vocal which continues to impress and captivate as the seconds tick. The listener is drawn into the soul and heart of a song that has a tear-stained sense of perspective and reflection. That refrain of “I’m losing you” is delivered with such a shiver and haunt; it is impossible not to be personally affected and troubled. Those words make the listener look at their own lives- similar times that they have experienced- and it is impossible not to evoke some sort of reaction to Boleyn’s emotive performance. Insignificant is a song that recounts a traumatic time and shows bravery and huge strength. Those that are familiar with Boleyn’s previous work will be surprised to hear a song that sounds like a bit of a shift. Few of her previous tracks have such a stillness and emotion to them. Many of The Boleyn Affair’s songs have gutsy and big compositions: Vocals that are energised and full-bodied. It would seem rather inappropriate to employ those traits to a song that calls for a particular delivery and sound. That is what impresses me most about Boleyn: She can tread any subject and idea and put them all together in and album that sounds consistent and natural. Gathered on the underground- tears are streaming down her face- that devastating news is still large in the mind. Perhaps not in the right place at this time- having to battle commuters to get to the hospital- you feel that tension and emotion rise. If we were in the same situation, how would we react? It is only natural there would be sadness and unexpectedness: The way Boleyn articulates her feelings into the song is hugely impressive. Such a clear and tangible set of lyrics means the listener can transport themselves in the song. Perhaps our heroine has encountered bad news in similar situations- “Just another breakdown in a public place”- but this seems the most fraught and unsettling. I am not sure exactly who is the core of the song- whether a family member or a boyfriend- but is something that compelled and inspired a wonderful song.
Through the early stages the composition remains supportive and comforting. Not just letting the voice do all the work; the polished production and effective backdrop- hard and elliptical beats with delicate piano- emphasises that sense of loss and heartbreak. When that news first came to Boleyn, the words got inside her and caused an instant reaction. That sense of numbness and distress is represented in words that see flying birds and drowning emotions combat one another. By the time the chorus comes around the second time, you still find yourself rooting for the heroine and everything she is going through. The chorus provided that centre and mantra that tells what the song is all about: In a way you want more verse to see how things play out. Before we are given more insight; our heroine documents how the new hits you “without warning”. Being unaware and going about life as normal; she has received this random phone-call that has bowled her down. Leaving her “cold on a sunny morning”, that chilling and head-spinning conversation is well explored and represented. At every moment, the vocal has that combination of power and soul which will lead to some serious radio-play and critical acclaim. Towards the closing moments, the backdrop beats get firmer and more persistent. Perhaps representing an accelerated, anxious heartbeat; it is impossible not to be completely drawn into the song and its layers. That central voice never fails to impress- whether uplifted and huge or emotive and tender- and keeps the listener seduced and invested to the very last second. Boleyn shows how effortless and authoritative she is in every single territory. Already demonstrating how strong she is when letting her voice fly: When taking things down you get a comparably huge emotional punch. The very dying seconds see that percussion beat come in to represent a final fling: Those tears and distressing feelings that must have been in Boleyn’s mind when she heard that news. At the very end, you wonder just how things worked out. Did she get to the hospital on time? Was her loved one okay at the very end? Perhaps those questions will be answered in time: What you have is a song that keeps the listener hooked and leaves some mysteries at the very end. Insignificant is one of The Boleyn Affair’s prime cuts and showcases just what an agile and impressive talent Hannah Boleyn is.
Joining forces with Hiten Bharadia & Neil Athale; you have a song that demonstrates a lot of heart and emotion. Perhaps a subject not often explored- more songwriters should think like this- Insignificant breaks away from songs of love and minor issues to address something much more vital and important. Not only is the song a stand-alone gem: It will speak to people who put too much stock in silly and unimportant things. For those of us that get aggravated by train delays and social media content then take note: There are huge things that can come out nowhere that make everything else seem stupid. Hannah Boleyn shows why she is one of the most heralded and important emerging voices in British music. With so many of her contemporaries vying for market share it is impressive to see a musician who has already achieved so much. With the likes of B.B.C. Radio 2 enamoured of her many talents; it is only a matter of time before the London-based singer becomes even bigger. Insignificant is available across YouTube- its official release is next month- and a song that possesses huge emotions and personal heartache. Given that premise, it might sound rather off-putting on paper: The truth is, the song is embracing and all-encompassing. Intended as a guide/warning to people who let tiny matters consume them; a singular musical moment that should inspire many other musicians. Neros’ production allows the vocal to be given free reign up-top. Ensuring proceedings are not too polished and fake you have a production that perfectly blends the instruments and vocals together. The composition is not mixed too low; allowing the haunting piano and strings to work closely together- an accomplished feat from one of the best producers out there. Where Boleyn goes from here is anyone’s guess. Insignificant is a song that is anything but: A big statement from a rising name in British music. Combining ‘60s and ‘70s Soul voices with modern-day chanteuses: Few listeners and music fans will be able to ignore the exceptional talent we have in our midst.
Insignificant is another confident step from an artist that is shaping up to become one of Britain’s most promising artists. There is a whole host of solo artists emerging, so the challenge is making sure you stick in the public’s mind. It is no good coming in with vague ideas and a voice that sounds like everyone else- so many do unfortunately. Given the height of competition and the masses of musicians coming through; there seems to be no excuse to arrive in music and simply expect the success to come. Hannah Boleyn is an artist who has worked tirelessly to ensure her music stands aside and reaches as many ears as it can. With some impressive radio patronage under her belt, it is clear she has a future ahead of her. I often feel tepid about some solo artists- their first moves can be quite shaky- but there are no such fears when it comes to Boleyn. Everything seems fully-formed, confident and original right now. From The Boleyn Affair’s filler-free quality to the praise Insignificant is picking up: Clearly her music has the quality and passion to win the public heart and minds. Insignificant is a song that sees Boleyn looking at what is really important in life. Forgetting the petty quibbles and minor qualms, we get hooked-up on; focusing on what matters most is what really counts. We often get bogged down in minor concerns and silly things. Insignificant is a song that taps into those oversites and explains the importance of prioritizing your focus and attention. Drawn from real-life events and happenings; you get a song that has inspired a lot of people and resonated clearly. So many artists are coming in with their lyrics of love-gone-wrong and misery-inducing break-ups. That is all very well- a majority of songs out there look at love in some form- but I am always impressed by music that steps away from such well-trodden themes. Not only do you have more flexibility and potential in terms of lyrics: The song itself will stand aside from the crowd and seems a lot more original. Whist Boleyn has written plenty of songs about love and the desires we feel; she is a talent that digs deeper and explores lesser-heard subjects. If last year is anything to go by- an album release and a great leap forward—surely this year will be stronger still? With a couple of gigs booked for London- there will be plans for more dates- the year is shaping up to be very busy indeed. Right now there is a real proffering of female singers that have big/soulful voices: The likes of Amy Winehouse feature heavily in the tones of our new songstresses. It is understandable the legacy of Winehouse burns bright: Those distinguished and stunning pipes have a haunting and mesmeric effect on the senses. A lot of young musicians are trying to instill the essence of Any Winehouse in their music.
That is laudable but so long as the overall vocal sound differs significantly: If we have hundreds of Winehouse sound-alikes, then there is no currency to your music. Hannah Boleyn is someone who takes Winehouse as an inspiration/starting block and expands on it. With embers of ‘60s/’70s Soul queens in the mix; some elements of Lana Del Rey in there too- you have an artist with a terrific sound at her disposal. At the heart of everything is a unique voice that betrays a debt to nobody. The same can be said for the songwriting too: Hooking up with some terrific writers and producers; Boleyn has a clear direction and ambition that sets her aside from her peers. For any upcoming songwriter reading this; there is a lesson to be learnt from Insignificant. Too many musicians have little in the way of mobility and diversity when it comes to their songwriting. They see others on the radio and think THAT is what should be done. Whilst there are some genuinely impressive artists emerging; still too many replicate and mimic others. It is a subject I shall drop- thankfully, you’ll be relieved- for now; my point is that Hannah Boleyn should be focused on more. The Boleyn Affair was an album that gained positive feedback and support for many different reasons. Not only is there a huge consistency and diversity to be found; there is an immense amount of confidence from an artist who has a desire to succeed and develop. With many singers crumbling and fading after a few years; I know Hannah Boleyn will be playing for many years to come. Insignificant is a song that shows just what she is all about. 2015 was a banner year for the young artist; if anything this year can be even more prosperous and impressive. Make sure you investigate an original voice who is gaining a lot of momentum and attention right now. Insignificant is another bold move from a musician who…
IS impossible not to love.
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