Elmiene's "Marking My Time," Cecily's "I Am Love," And More Songs By Black Artists To Vibe To
Culture & Entertainment

Elmiene's "Marking My Time," Cecily's "I Am Love," And More Songs By Black Artists To Vibe To

The nicest thing about the music business over the holidays is that most well-known artists have already released their albums and singles for the year and have taken a seasonal slumber until the new year arrives. This gives lesser-known musicians who must work year-round a chance to shine and take over the airwaves for a short period of time. Therefore, this week's new music is filled with artists that you don't know but should.

With songs that share relatable themes of self-sabotage ("Ruined" and "Departure"), self-assurance and confidence ("I Am Love" and "Limbo"), and self-love and reflection ("Learn Ya" and "project"), this week's new songs illustrate the self-awareness that comes at the end of the year when everything has slowed down and solidified itself. Here are the top ten new songs of the week.

"Ruined" - Michael J Woodard

This song feels... familiar. The songs that the guitar strums remind me of were probably released in the late 2000s or early 2010s. The song's tempo, reminiscent of the time period, soothes listeners into a state of comfort as Michael J Woodard speaks on how a previous romance destroyed him. The ballad "Ruined" highlights two key points: first, the singer takes responsibility for his own life's devastation, and second, he is now pleading for some sense of pity, since his partner has moved on, indicating that his careless actions in the relationship have destroyed whatever prospects he may have had.

The song is enjoyable. However, listening to Woodard sing over the chorus of this song, which expresses how he created the riff in his relationship, yet is offended that his love has the nerve to go on, is annoying after a while. One finds it difficult to feel sorry for someone who is so self-aware. Mostly because, like a lot of others, he thinks that just admitting his mistakes and making a commitment to never make them again absolves him of responsibility for what he has done.

Although he doesn't appear to entirely believe in this "forgive and forget" truth, there is a part of him that thinks his love will hear about his suffering and understand that he is ready to change now that he understands where he went wrong. And with this belief, it feels like he never truly learned the lesson that ruined him in the first place.

"Marking My Time" (Live) - Elmiene

Futuristic neo-soul musician Elmiene released his newest EP, Marking My Time, in October 2023. When discussing the EP's release, the singer states that it was meant to mark time in his personal history so that he wouldn't "get lost." Almost creating an adhesion checkpoint, the singer wanted to be sure to document and acknowledge the imprint he left on the musical world, no matter how small. This, of course, makes sense, given the R&B singer is someone we will likely hear about for years to come, especially after being dubbed the "Golden Boy" of Brit R&B.

In his latest single, "Marking My Time," the singer speaks of putting his soul on fire and escaping a society that he believes is morally corrupt and damaged over a soft guitar and dramatic string orchestra. The live version of the song is warm, comforting, and a little disheartening as we hear the singer's smooth vocals moan and plea over the ability to free himself and how doing so is easier said than done. The entire EP is worth listening to. However, if you don't have the time, treat yourself to the live rendition on YouTube.

"I Am Love" - Cecily

"You're my favorite, dubby dubby doo."

Cecily Bumbray, I believe, would be the musical love child of Jill Scott, Kaiit, and Esperanza Spalding. A singer and songwriter from Washington, DC, Cecily finds her footing in the R&B/Soul/Jazz world in her newest single, "I Am Love," in which she sings of being the epitome of love. The lead track from her next project, Awakening Pt. 2, which drew inspiration from bell hooks' book All About Love, emphasizes the value of affirmations, as the song highlights one's ability to remind oneself, especially during times of hardship, that you are love.

Due to its earnestly positive themes, the song has a cozy, milk-and-honey feel about it. It is endearing, restorative, and full of affection.

In the end, the song provides a nice groove that shows that love can come from many places, even and especially from within. "I Am Love," characterized by a laid-back rhythm and deep harmonies, seamlessly resides at the nexus of jazz and soul, mirroring the romantic sentiments of 1990s neo-soul artists with a contemporary spin.

"Black Owned Friday" - Keke Palmer ft. Crystal Waters

This song would probably be a terrific choice for a ballroom challenge if Max hadn't canceled the show, Legendary, which Keke Palmer used to cohost. Unfortunately, it has been canceled, so this song would only work well at a club during a Renaissance- or 1980s/90s-themed night. During Black Friday weekend, the song honored Black-owned companies and provided unwavering support for them. Palmer reworked the 90s hit song "100% Pure Love" by Crystal Waters in collaboration with Google to highlight Black-owned businesses.

The song is entertaining and catchy, while the music video features several Black-owned businesses and goods. She exhorts that everyone, regardless of race, invest in Black-owned companies and use their earnings for projects that would help more underprivileged entrepreneurs. The message conveys the importance of building financial success in communities that otherwise wouldn't be able to do it on their own.

"Learn Ya" - 6LACK

In preparation for his upcoming fifth studio album, 6Lack is releasing the lyric video to some of his older songs. One of those songs is "Learn Ya" from his 2016 album, Free 6Lack. Now that I have the opportunity to listen to the song again, I can't help but think of how masterfully written the song is and how it makes one accountable to their partner.

In the ballad "Learn Ya," 6Lack describes the problematic relationship he has found himself in. Confronting his girlfriend, or soon-to-be ex, the singer lists many attributes that are necessary to have a successful relationship. Unfortunately, his lover doesn't seem to possess any of them. So, throughout the song, he brings her shortcomings to her attention in a straightforward, non-accusatory tone. He merely points out how she could love him better, and in hopes of succeeding together, he holds himself accountable for teaching her how to love him correctly.

Although she appears purposefully ignorant of her mistakes, throughout the song, she seems unwilling to correct them. Still, throughout the song, 6Lack continues to use words like "we" and "us" to show that she doesn't have to grow alone in their relationship and that despite being frustrated with her, he still desires to make their relationship work.

"Limbo" - Meduulla ft. The Mouse Outfit

How evocative this tune is.

I've been missing the storytelling rap that only a few artists—Kendrick Lamar, an early J.Cole, and older rappers from the 1980s and 1990s—can provide. Meduulla discusses finding contentment in simple existence in a narrative akin to a lullaby. Living such a life means remaining loyal to herself and without compromising the qualities that define her. She struggles, though, to balance the life she is now attempting to give up and leave behind with the one she is creating for herself through her goals.

Her biggest struggle at the moment is how to handle herself during this transitional period, or how she will manage to overcome being in limbo.

Even yet, it doesn't sound like she's doing this in a melancholy manner in the song.

As she creates the life she believes she deserves, she is primarily interested in learning the answer to her question in order to make sure she takes the most tranquil and healing path possible for herself. The song is easy listening and fun, making you question where people feel safest while they're going through their transformations and how one can obtain the most peaceful manner in accomplishing their purposeful growth.

"Lonely At the Top" (Remix) - Asake & H.E.R.

Nigerian singer-songwriter Asake's song "Lonely At The Top (Remix)" is the newest single from his latest project, Work of Art [WOA]. In the song, Asake and H.E.R. delve into the themes of determination, tenacity, and the cost incurred in pursuing one's dreams despite naysayers' beliefs. The song captures the loneliness that one can acquire when at the top, and how it frequently accompanies achievement when one is in unwavering pursuit of their dreams. The singers consider the difficulties associated with success and how it can create a feeling of loneliness, while one longs for understanding and human connection.

This is one of the better H.E.R. collaborations to come out in the last few weeks. This is mostly because the song does a fantastic job of capturing the artists' dedication to following their passion relentlessly, regardless of what other people might approve of or desire. The song's lyricism is serious, but the melody is relaxing and surefooted, allowing for moments of reflection on one's circumstances. The single demonstrates the artists' will to follow their ambitions despite opposition and loneliness.

It emphasizes putting one's own aspirations ahead of other people's ideas and expectations by showing the sacrifices and steadfast devotion that come with chasing dreams.

"Departure" - Fetty Wap

It appears that a number of musicians have encountered significant legal issues recently. For instance, Young Thug's long-delayed trial for gang-related charges has recently begun after more than a year of the rapper's incarceration, Tory Lanez was just sentenced to ten years in prison, and YNW Melly is awaiting a retrial on his charges of double murder. And that's only a handful of the musicians facing difficulties; Fetty Wap, for example, hasn't put out an album in what seems like 1,738 years due to his legal issues. Nevertheless, the musician has released his most recent album, King Zoo, months after being sentenced to six years in prison on drug trafficking charges. While away, the "Trap Queen" artist released his newest single, "Departure" from his newly released project.

It's a smart release that makes for a great single for his next album. The song's melody, which has a chord pattern similar to DJ Khaled and Rihanna's "Wild Thoughts" in certain portions and Ashanti's early 2000s smash "Foolish" in others, is catchier than its words. Though the message is clear: Fetty Wap trusted the wrong people, and despite all of his accomplishments and "good behavior," this has resulted in his downfall and inevitable departure from those in his original crew.

"project" - Zowie Kengocha

This song has the sense of a seductress luring you in with the promise of love and affection. And instead of taking a measured approach with every barrier up, you joyously disarm each act of protection in the hopes of feeling even a tiny bit of her professed devotion. Until today, I've never heard a song from Zowie Kengocha, a singer-songwriter raised in Nairobi, and born in New Jersey, but after I did, I wish I had heard from the artist sooner. However, as they say, I'm glad to have arrived later than never.

In her newest single for her forthcoming EP, Kengocha's voice is clear, clean, and seductive, as she gives listeners the impression of being enveloped in warmth while swaying in a lover's embrace.

This song is ideal to play for a new love since it describes the euphoric sensation that one has when one first falls in love and their sentiments are reciprocated. The track "project" is transparent and straightforward, adding to its charm that makes downloading this gem ideal for spending a beautiful evening with the one you fancy.

"Diversion" - Tamera

I really enjoy it when performers introduce their audience to other deserving musicians that they may not have otherwise heard of. R&B artist Mahalia presents her listeners to R&B singer Tamera in her most recent single. In the acoustic rendition of the more upbeat song "Diversion," Tamera declares a warning to her partner about the thoughtless and risky conduct she has noticed in their relationship. Primarily, she sings of how, after she sees the warning signs, his erratic and dubious conduct makes her suspicious and makes her battle between the urge to fall in love with him versus leaving him where he stands.

She understands that his actions are making her respond in a way that is consistent with her nature and how she has forgiven guys like him before. Though, based on her experience, she quickly acknowledges that he is nothing more than a diversion whose sole intention is to manipulate her emotions for his own amusement. The intriguing aspect of this song is Tamera's self-awareness, as she expresses discontent with the relationship. By the end of the song, listeners question why she hasn't "tapped out of the circus" she claims to be in when it is so clear that he doesn't mind making her look like a clown.

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Featured image via Cecily/Vevo

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