Every so often I get a chance to review the music I have in my MP3 library. These days it’s easy to download so much music that it is impossible to listen to it all equally. Therefore most people, me included, develop favorites before looking to clear out some of the music that fell off our MP3 radar. One thing I notice about my collection is that it contains more female than male singers and groups. I really have to remain cognizant of this tendency when choosing post features for Weekly Music Commentary. Yet I find that I not only tend to gravitate towards female vocalists, I really appreciate the ones that wear several hats. The multi-talented singer, songwriters, producers, instrumental musicians who constantly aim their entire talent arsenal toward each recorded musical project. Here are a few examples: Angela Winbush, Lalah Hathaway, Patrice Rushen, Roberta Flack and Alicia Keys. All of the above mentioned artists are among my favorites because of their overall musical abilities. Remarkably, there are many more young artists who fit the profile I have set as my favorite artists, and this week we feature the great Chrisette Michele.
Some may argue that she has not achieved greatness yet, but she has received critical acclaim from industry insiders and prestigious awards have started to find her home mantle piece. The thirty-one year old singer/songwriter from Patchogue, NY has already won a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2009 for her song “Be OK”. Her fourth studio album Better which was released June 11, 2013 debuted at number 12 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 27,000 copies in its first week.
Personally, I really love this point in any singer’s career. Chrisette is over thirty years old, released her fourth album, and is very experienced in live performances. Also, because she is a songwriter she has grown to understand what and how she wants to write music. “I’ve sang a lot of broken-hearted love songs because I had a broken heart from love,” says Chrisette. “I began to write a little bit darker. And for me, dark just means a song that doesn’t have a happy ending.” Chrisette Michele Payne has come into a better understanding of herself – away from the music. She took a long break away from the spotlight in order to come back with a wonderful album. She said, “over the past year and a half, I took the time to regroup and pull my heart together.” Chrisette insists her time away had little to do with the music industry and more to do with how she was feeling within. Her bio stated Chrisette felt what in hindsight looked to be burnout. She was physically, mentally, emotionally, and artistically fatigued. So she took time for herself, traveling the world as a global citizen instead of an artist. The travels had to help give her new perspective and in a way “recharge her batteries.”
Interestingly right before the end of 2013 I found a news item about Chrisette Michele that could potentially bring her even more exposure. Chrisette along with Leela James will be joining the cast for the upcoming season of R&B Divas: LA. Many of you know that I am not a fan of reality television. Of course I have seen a few episodes in the past; in fact, I really thought R&B Divas Atlanta was pretty good. There was the predictable drama, but not the type that is a mainstay in mostly all reality shows. The show basically documents some of the personal and family issues that have affected the careers of the female artists who are featured. The first season of R&B Divas LA was different from the Atlanta show because it was filled with drama: reality show drama!
Amazingly, the show’s producers decided to replace singers Kelly Price and Dawn Robinson, subtracting a great deal of the hostility and fire, and replace them with the seemingly docile Michele and James. In an interview with Roland Martin on NewsOneNow the two new divas stated that they would not be the source of crazy actions on the show. “My mother would probably be the first person to pop me upside the head in front of the camera,” added Michele, who admitted that she has been warned by family members and friends to not act out of character on the show.
Nonetheless, there are some that still feel Chrisette Michele will bring some drama to the show citing her sometimes strong demeanor with her staff. I’m sure Chrisette Michele is a perfectionist when it comes to her music, as most talented musicians are, but I doubt we will see anything more than her dealing with day to day issues and problems associated with performances. It comes down to how one defines that word “diva”. In any case the show should be entertaining and somewhat informative. By the way, Chrisette Michele’s new album Better is nominated along with the R&B Divas Atlanta compilation album for the Grammy for Best R&B Album.