Tuesday 10 March 2020
One of the most distinctive voices in pop, American singer-songwriter ARI LENNOX announces her return to New Zealand with a headline concert on March 10.
Ari Lennox has a voice that never fails. She is the first female artist signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville label and you’ll know why as soon as you hear her distinctive voice, it pierces right through and stays with you. Early fans of the Washington, D.C.-bred singer-songwriter became clued in three years ago when they began repeatedly clicking onto YouTube to hear her refreshing, laid-back vocals on soulful covers of songs by Coldplay, Fantasia, Blink 182 and finally her own track ‘La La La La.’ The buzz grew following the release of ‘Backseat’ (featuring Cozz) – her first single after being signed to Dreamville/Interscope in late 2015. Now it’s time for everyone else to catch up.
Besides her unique vocals, Lennox isn’t afraid to unleash what’s exactly on her mind. ‘Backseat,’ for instance, in which the female is the one shifting the romantic gears in the relationship to get what she wants physically. Being brave and taking risks is how Lennox has always approached her craft. While her high school friends were talking about college and joining the military after graduating in 2009, she knew only one thing absolutely: “I wanted to do music.”
While growing up in the D.C. area, Lennox came by her love of music thanks to her parents and grandmother. They introduced their youngest daughter to a diverse array of artists ranging from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Minnie Riperton to John Legend, Common, Whitney Houston and D’Angelo. Her grandmother was a casino singer whom Lennox describes as having a “breathtaking, Diana Ross-type vibe.”
Of her own singing, which began in church and later segued into talent shows, Lennox says, “I knew I had something. But I also knew that I had to work hard to get something from it.” That work ethic translated into stints at open mic nights and “any competition I could find,” notes the singer who at one point auditioned for American Idol. She even took a bus out to California in pursuit of her musical voice. “I was a young wild child with no plan,” says Lennox. “But I came to Los Angeles anyway to try and make it. But it didn’t go well.”
Then the tide started to turn in 2013 when, having moved to New York, she teamed up with producer Dave James to release “Ariography”, her self-reflective EP featuring the buzz track ‘La La La La.’ But then, as Lennox recalls, the “hype died down a little” and she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where her family had relocated. It was here that the singer started working on herself “mentally and musically,” writing and posting songs on Soundcloud. That’s when Lennox began locking in her unique sound. “I call it modern, relaxed, new soul,” says the singer. “It’s just chill with today's hip hop vibes." As for my voice, it’s vulnerable and soulful; imperfect but pretty.”
Soon after Lennox found her sound, J. Cole and Dreamville came calling. “On my first day working at a local public storage company, I received a call saying that Dreamville wanted to fly me out to California,” recalls Lennox. “I was terrified the whole way but I was determined that this could change my life.”
On her debut album “Shea Butter Baby” Ari Lennox “presents lush, gogo-infused instrumentation as the backdrop to her chronicles of life and love” (Pitchfork). “While the music is soulful,” explains Lennox, “I’m also talking about something suggestive and unusual for a young female. Sometimes women are put in this box where we’re only supposed to talk about certain things. I want to be braver and riskier. I think people want to hear that kind of honesty and frankness.”
The album was recently nominated for three BET Soul Train Awards in Vegas, which Lennox disappointingly lost to female rapper and current flavour of the month, Lizzo, an artist who some internet spectators remarked as incomparably being an artist who “makes pop music for white girls who have live love laugh tattooed on them” (Paper Magazine).
Last seen in New Zealand on J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only tour in 2017, Ari Lennox finally returns to make her headline debut to fans. If you’re a fan of Snoh Aalegra, J.I.D., Raveena and Sir, then don’t miss this rising star of future soul in Auckland this March.
“The album is a balm, elevating Lennox to the upper echelon of today’s neo-R&B and soul wave” – Pitchfork
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