It hasn't been easy being Corinne Bailey Rae. To have tragedy strike as you're approaching the pinnacle of your career. To have a platinum-selling, award-winning debut album and everything that comes with it, and suddenly feel completely empty. To lose the love of your life while doing the thing in life you love... most of us could never imagine such a thing. Yet, she's lived with that feeling for the better part of the past two years, living in a sea of confusion after her husband's death. Unfathomable.
That's what makes Bailey Rae's return to the musical stage such a triumphant one. And what makes the title of her sophomore disc--The Sea--such an ironic one. Especially since, if you use the metaphor of the sea as life, the very thing that likely had her feeling like she was drowning as she grieved, has now turned into a place of calm, comfort and tranquility.
It hasn't been easy, but such is life at sea.
Cut to last week, when Bailey Rae took to the stage at Manhattan's Hiro Ballroom for a private listening session for the new project, hosted by Capitol/EMI Records. All wild mane and purple haze, she looked amazing as she walked the audience through the new material. Backed by a five piece band, her voice was stronger and soulful than ever on cuts like "Are You There?," "Paris Nights, New York Mornings," and "Love Is On Its Way." The tune "Closer," which was radio-ready, had a beat so catchy I caught myself humming it on the way home.
The album's lead single, the swaying "I'd Do It All Again," was just released to radio last week and is a good primer for what's to come. However, my favorite track of the night by far was the haunting, melodic "I Would Like To Call It Beauty," a slow jam in every sense of the word. Hearing her sing it live literally made my hair stand on end, as her rich voice and thick accent punctuated each word.
Of course, she sang cuts from the first album, with "Like A Star," "Til It Happens To You" and the Grammy-nominated "Put Your Records On" sounding so good, so familiar, it was like putting on warm socks on a cold winter night.
Seeing Bailey Rae back in her element, performing live, was incredible. With each song title, though, you could tell she was not only creating new classics, but simultaneously working through her pain.
After the show, someone compared her to another artist who's taken her time between albums: Sade. Only with stronger vocals. It's an apt comparison, with the two being known for their ballads, and both speaking from a place of passion about love and loss and sorrow. And now, with both returning with new music early next year after each went on a long hiatus.
Yes, it's true, it hasn't been easy for Corinne Bailey Rae to get past the emptiness that took over her life. Seeing her on stage still wearing her wedding band was evidence of that fact.
However, hearing the depth of her message, the maturity of her vocals, and the audience's reaction to her new work--all of this must undoubtedly arm her with even more strength in order to endure the waves that will inevitably come her way.
No, it won't be easy. But definitely possible.
The Sea is set for release January 26, 2010 and is available for pre-order here.