Make a soulful noise

Make a soulful noise

India.Arie at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati

By Deon Jefferson

 
Photo: India.Arie will perform at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati on Nov. 19 in support of her latest album, SongVersation; photo: Randee St. Nicholas

Today’s music industry is filled with many diverse artists. There are only a few who stand out amongst a sea of social media attention-seekers, reality television superstars, tabloid drama queens and “twerk-crazy” one-hit-wonders. Four-time Grammy Award Winner India.Arie happens to be one of those rare, sparkling diamonds. On Tuesday, Nov. 19 India.Arie will be coming to the Taft Theater in Cincinnati for her anticipated SongVersation Tour.

India.Arie made her presence known back in 2001 with her debut album Acoustic Soul. Soon after her debut, she was labeled a “neo-soul” singer, along with like-minded contemporaries like Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. In a recent interview, the Dayton City Paper spoke with the singer-songwriter about the issue.

“A big part of any issue with any artist is art versus conversation,” said Arie. “The neo-soul moniker was a marketing tool, and they had to have something to call these fresh, new black singers because we were so unique. They had to call us something. For me, I would have never chosen that title. I like the idea of just calling it ‘soul music’ because it connects us with all of our heroes like Al Green, Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. The neo-soul thing makes it sound like it’s a small box inside of a smaller box. It was a smart marketing tool at the time, but it seemed to have backfired in recent years.”

Arie was a breath of fresh air in the music industry at the time of her arrival – she wrote and produced her own songs, and she could actually sing. Acoustic Soul was a very impressive body of work that exposed her fans to her views on relationships, self-acceptance and religion. The album also featured a tribute song about her idol Stevie Wonder, entitled “Wonderful.” Her first video was one the albums highlights, women everywhere were singing her lyrics, “I learn to love myself unconditionally, because I am a queen.” Arie received seven nominations at the 2002 Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year and Best New Artist. She was the most nominated artist that year. That evening she walked away with nothing, but her album sales increased, eventually going double platinum.

Thankfully, after a four-year hiatus, India.Arie has returned with her new album SongVersation, there is a good reason why she kept us waiting for so long, “My life fell apart,” she said. “I needed to put it back together, I wasn’t sure if I was going to return to the music industry. I went through a growing up process and it was the best thing that happened to me. I was also working on another album that I totally funded alone called Open Door. Altogether, it took me three years to make. The album was a duet project and it featured a Middle Eastern artist. Sadly, we couldn’t agree on business, so I decided to shelve the album. Being taken advantage of in music was the biggest issue behind me taking my hiatus. I would have been selling myself out, so I decided to stand up for myself and SongVersation is a result of me standing up for me.”

SongVersation was released this past summer to much success. The album debuted at number seven on the Billboard Album charts, selling over 31,000 copies in its first week. The new body of work found India sounding better than ever, her singles “Cocoa Butter” and “Just Do You” reminded fans why she achieved worldwide acclaim, as well as earning her praise from her industry peers. Although the album is new, it showcases her classic songwriting, accompanied by her butter-like alto timbre. Arie’s new body of work contains producing credits from longtime collaborator Shannon Samuel, who worked on her last album, Testimony Vol. 2, and her new collaborator David Ryan Harris.

“SongVersation is my favorite body of work, not only because of the product but also for the process,” said Arie. “I’ve been going through a lot, but this album makes it all worth it.”

Recently, the singer embarked on her third headlining tour, A SongVersation with India.Arie. “SongVersation is more than just an album, I always tell my fans that this is not a concert,” Arie said. “[It is] is a representation of what you get when you see me live in person.”

 

Soul Bird Presents: A SongVersation with India.Arie, Tuesday, Nov. 19 at The Taft Theater, 317 E. 5th St. in Cincinnati. For ticket information, please contact Ticketmaster at 513.232.6220. For more information on India.Arie, please visit soulbird.com.

 Reach DCP freelance writer Deon Jefferson at DeonJefferson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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