It is rare to discover a voice that stops you in your tracks. So when I first heard Laura Mvula’s ‘Green Garden’ when I was 13, I was taken aback by the sheer depth and power of her vocals. I had discovered neo-soul music and I was to fall deeply in love. In subsequent years I would find the likes of soul and R&B legends Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.
Growing up singing in gospel choirs and at school in Birmingham, Mvula later graduated from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with a degree in composition. This musical background would eventually help to launch her career. In 2012, Mvula was signed to Sony subsidiary RCA on a five record deal; the following year she would release her critically acclaimed debut album Sing to the Moon, which garnered her two MOBO awards, two BRIT nominations and was shortlisted for a Mercury Prize.
Mvula had officially arrived on the mainstream music scene. 2016’s Overcome saw a collaboration with legendary musician and producer Nile Rodgers (of CHIC fame) who declared he considers Mvula a ‘genius’. However, Mvula could not have predicted what would ensue. Whilst the album received critical acclaim, it failed to receive the same commercial success as her first. In January 2017, Mvula found out that she had been dropped by her record label via email. She was seemingly blindsided, saying it felt “so cold and cruel”. It is difficult to fathom why such a misfortune could happen to such an exceptional talent; but Mvula offhandedly states that “it’s business”.
Living in a culture of mass media consumption, the demand for artists to produce album after album, year after year is extraordinary. This doesn’t just come from fans; it originates in the record labels themselves. While pressure to create is sometimes effective, I would argue that time is precious and valuable to the creative process. Artists want to put out good music that doesn’t feel rushed. When albums don’t sell as record labels envision, more often than not, artists will be dropped.
So, five years on, Mvula returns with the triumphant Pink Noise via Atlantic Records. This feels like a new musical chapter. Mvula has taken the pain and struggles of her previous setback and created something wholly uplifting. At the core, Mvula’s music is still soulful, but the infusion of 80s synth beats underpinning luscious melodies reminds fans of Mvula’s natural talent whilst simultaneously demonstrating her capacity for musical evolution.
For me, the standout track on the album has to be ‘Magical’, which is driven by a powerful synth beat and showcases Mvula’s vocal mastery with key changes reminiscent of Earth, Wind and Fire.
Pink Noise invites us into another dimension of ‘interstellar dreaming’ and ‘technicolour romance’. It is an absolute pleasure to celebrate a new era of Laura Mvula and I would urge you all to give it a listen.
Photo Via: DFID