Oct 112023
lady blackbird slave to the rhythm

Marley Munroe’s amazing talent was honed and recognized early, but her more recent metamorphosis into Lady Blackbird has made her name. Having successfully paid tribute to one icon, taking her new name from a Nina Simone song, she is now taking on another. Her audacious cover of Grace Jones’ “Slave to the Rhythm” is now available.

“Slave to the Rhythm” was a perfect vehicle for Jamaican diva Jones. Producer and co-writer Trevor Horn of The Buggles was used to the bombastic, as a creator and harnesser of chaos, and this was the skill that was needed for her to shine. Both Horn and Jones have revisited the song over the years, with Jones’ 2012 version with a full orchestra backing her, using a hula-hoop throughout, particularly pleasing.

Lady Blackbird’s version starts in a very different place. Starting with only a keyboard it seems like the whole thing might be redone as a torch song. Is Horn, the producer of this new version as well, in a more subdued mood? Only a hint of woodwind before the vocals gives a hint of something greater to come.

Soon the song starts to build, as if the music is building to keep up with the astonishing vocals. Each time Blackbird moves up a gear, the arrangement adds a layer to ensure that she is not leaving them behind, and her isolated. Blackbird’s precise musicality and diction echo Simone. The amazing number of gears that she can go through becomes apparent as the crescendo approaches. Her vocal range and delivery are just astonishing. Blackbird emphasizes “Love” over “Rhythm” in her delivery, perhaps showing where her greatest focus is.

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