A Rae of Hope

By Sandra Parmee

British soul-pop sensation Corinne Bailey Rae [1] is finally back with her second album entitled The Sea four years after her poppy self-titled debut album [2] that sold nearly four million copies worldwide. The album features 11 tracks’ each bringing its own unique flavour to the steaming plate of soul food that is offered up to us. The album is co-produced by Rae herself, along with Steve Brown and Steve Chrisanthou.

But there is a significant change from the cheery happy-go-lucky feel of Rae’s first album. Some of the songs were written after and based on the tragic death of Rae’s husband, Jason Rae [3], due to an accidental overdose in 2008. It is quite clear that her music has been deeply affected by such a life-changing event ‘her sound is much more mature and filled with an emotional rawness that is hard not to be affected and moved by. Rae supports this new depth to her music,
saying in an article in the Observer [4], ‘I definitely feel more serious. I feel more impassioned. I have total belief in these songs and when I sing them in front of people, I want to pass that on.’

Overall, the album contains a deep sense of grief and sadness; however it is hard to miss the inspiring message of hope that emerges from the despair. In the same interview in the Observer, Rae states, ‘you find out there’s a lot of beauty and grace even in the darkness.’  While most of the songs were written before her husband’s death and based on previous life experiences, they have been filled with and altered by the recent tragedy that Rae has faced. The two songs written in the wake of her husband’s death ‘ Are You Here and I Would Like to call it Beauty ‘ are two of the best tracks on the album. They are pure, heartfelt pieces that resonate with emotion.

But don’t be fooled – as soon as the slower songs have lulled you in dreamy state of melancholic contentment’ along come the more catchy, upbeat numbers like The Blackest Lily and Paris Nights/New York Mornings to rev up your heart rate. Closer is another one of the best tracks on the album – a smooth, saucy track that exhibits Rae’s sultry voice at its full potential. It’s a song you’d expect to find in a classy bar somewhere foreign and glamorous. Another one of
the better tracks is Love is On Its Way’ a hauntingly beautiful and deeply personal song about faith overriding hopelessness, accompanied by a bittersweet guitar melody. Near the end the feel of gospel music adds an interesting new element. I’d Do it All Again is yet another one that lingers behind long after you’ve clicked exit on your music player. The other songs on the album fade more into the background but cause no discomfort to the ear either.

It is difficult to find fault with Rae’s latest album. The songs are beautifully executed, Rae’s voice is richer, more soulful and mesmerizing than ever before and the soul and spirit of the album seep into the deepest coves of the heart. While the album does tend to lean towards a more dismal and depressing feel, out of the dark corners emerges a tangible sense of hope and a strong and inspiring message about finding beauty in every situation.

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