The world of country music is no stranger to Black American artistry and landscapes. From the likes of Tracey Chapman to those older, musical story tellers. Country music, too, has it’s birthing in Black American soiling. Owing its creation to the Deep South, the bringing of the banjo, from West Africa, stimulated the cultivation of country music in Black American soiling. Linda Martell. Charley Pride. Aaron Neville. Just to mention a few of Black American artists, who have made great strides in the genre of country music. The dynamic genre was embraced and later performed by White American communities, and musicians, who felt connected to the tune.
So, now, as we fast forward to 2020, we witness a visual of Black American, country, maiden tales, through the recent song and video of R&B Singer and Songwriter, K. Michelle’s, “Just Like Jay.” Yes, world! The image of a Black American maiden, re-birthing herself, in one genre laid for her, by her foremothers. Bringing it into the modern era, with an upbeat tempo. Immersing in the world of country music, country swag, and country fragrance, with a fragrance of the Soul of R&B. As a symbolic representation of the auto industry lingers behind her, the protagonist of this realistic tale, is surrounded by nature’s essence. Though this observation has consistently been repeated in previous writings, it is one of necessity. The re-painting, re-imagining, and re-planting of Black American maidens and mothers in gardenal and Earthly spaces is key in the re-claiming of our femininity and womanhood. Because in U.S. herstory, healthy connections and sensualities in Earth’s domains was denied to them, during their period of enslavement. Actions that were purposefully done to remove the feminine essence from Black American communities, in hopes of their utter destruction. Behaviors continued to be performed in the modern era.
One of the attributes of country music, is its performance and connection to the natural. The fact that it was grown, and created, from natural domains is obvious. Listening to the timber and texture of country music (regardless of its varieties), one can imagine the guitarist, singer, banjo player, or what have you, sitting in the plains, within the comforts of mountains, or red clay soils. Being comforted and soothed in natural sounds and essence. All the while, delving further into the worlds of musical allure. That country elixir, of course. The way in which country music tells the stories of regular, every day folk. Everyday love stories. Everyday people stories. Those tales and images of life. Relatable to the every day factory worker, plumber, corporate executive, white collar, blue collar, or pink collar workers. These stories transcend class, race, region, and any other category separating human existence. That’s the joy, and beauty, of it all! Country music has a way of making human beings closer. And, its direct connection to land, plays a huge role in that making.
So, here we have a Black American vocalist, performing myriad experiences, in the surroundings of land. One of her biggest struggles was her desire to stay true to her authenticity, womanhood, and persona. Staying aligned to her personal journey and experiences in the music industry, and the hostilities, coming with it. Pressures to change her overall identity, and Being, for the approval (or success) with a record label, becomes one of the memoriable lyrics, in the song. Abandonment. Exploitation. Being devalued. Unloved. Having one’s kindness being taken for granted. These are all prominent issues, on which many would suggests are colorless. And, yes! They are. Yet, when put in context into the lives of Black American women, there is a layer of greater depth. There is a level of pain and anguish, yet to be understood and comprehended by many, who care to observe, these peculiar women. Who listen to their peculiar music. And, yet, have still not recognized her humanity or her womanhood. The intensity and magnitude of this pain too often remains in silence. Masks of the “strong, Black woman,” hides the scars and tears of her Spirit. The harsh reality is how within, and outside, her culture and community many dismiss the anguish and intensity of her pain. Actually thinking that because she has managed to persevere, that such equates to her being supposedly “unable” to feel or connect with human emotions. A robot or machine, who is so strong and powerful, that she can overcome anything without help or assistance. It has become so psychotic, that people actually become offended, dismissive, and disgusted, when she dares to cry or reveal her humanity.
So, when we have a song, such as “Just Like Jay,” performed, it is another example in the emotional, physical, and spiritual revolution taking place for Black American women. The audacity for her to proclaim her humanity and womanhood to the world is interpreted, as overwhelming. Well, that’s just too bad. Having to be unapologetic in conveying one’s spiritual and emotional essence is part of the new trend for Black American women. The honesty and natural storytelling in K. Michelle’s performance of “Just Like Jay,” is legendary. Rawness of her lyrical persuasion is like a healing oil in the lives of so many Black American women. The aesthetics of her video is that she is in the midst of nature. The wind is clearly on her side. With that comes the exposing and revealing of any wounds or scars. Making them visible and opening them up to the kisses of the wind, so that they can breathe. And, when scars are able to breathe, that is when they can heal. It is one of the essences of spiritual nudity.
Listening over and over to the context and lyrics of the song, one is posed to hear the realities, shaping her musical journey. And, no, they are not pretty. Though music is nourishing, the industry is harsh. More brutal and dehumanizing that few can imagine. K. Michelle’s revelations within this song, re-claims the voices of so many Black American women singers, songwriters, and every day women folk, who have faced similar brutalities.
Further analysis of the song takes listeners onto a magical journey of Black American, feminine aesthetics. An aesthetics which combines Universal fiction with reality. The understanding of “fade to Black,” embodies a different meaning and connotation. The essence of fading into Blackness, or returning into the dark, is synonymous (and akin) to returning into that world of healing. That mystical picture of balance and harmony. A world, where Black is removed from the tainting of evil, and other negative connotations, associated with her existence. Re-birthing and presenting blackness in a different Iight. Proclaiming her in her naturalness and authenticity. In this context, blackness is a retreat. A safe haven and protective sphere, where Black American women can re-claim their holistic well-being. Restoration in the oneness of self. It’s immaculate and the highest form of self-love. Notice how K. Michelle continues to ask the question, “where is the love?” And, through it all, love, is synonymous with Blackness. They are not separate entities of one other.
As we return to the role of the Maiden, in Black American gardens, I am pressed to re-address this prototype in the video of “Just Like Jay.” K. Michelle’s presence embodies the existence of the Black American maiden-in one of her many forms. Let’s not forget the diversity of Black America’s natural, authentic gardens and the myriad perfumes, produced from them. The role of the Maiden, in any cultural garden, is to nurture, grow, and cultivate the garden. She nurtures the vegetation, as it, in turn, nurtures her. She is so connected to this garden (whether national or cultural), that she is the feminine personification of its existence. The Maiden also nourishes the language, music, and what other cultural aspects are produced from it. Like other young, Black American singers and performers, K. Michelle is providing a Maidenal tale. The painful aspect concerning this particular tale, is that the Black American maiden is not being loved, nourished, cherished, protected, or appreciated as maidens are to be. On the contrary, she is viewed as an object of destruction and slander. “What have I done to make them hate me so much?” A repeated cry, heard throughout the song. An important and rightful waling, at that, as it highlights the attack against Black American women’s femininity.
Another healing factor in the song and video is K. Michelle’s audacity to shatter the myth and de-humanizing prototype of the “strong, Black woman.” This breaking and removal of such a sickness from Black American gardens is especially visible when K. Michelle sings “as strong as I may be, right now I’m feeling weak. The weight of the world is so heavy.” Again, she reveals the paradox in the myth of the character of the “strong, Black woman.” The articulation of being vulnerable and not being immune to feeling, and suffering, from worldly pains is expressed. The revelations of her heart and hardness of this difficult journey becomes evident. That Black American women are not hardened machines, who walk through rocks, cactus thorns, and the brutalities of life (and attacks on our very existence), as robots, void of feeling the sticks and pricks of negative, violent energy and harnesses. Holistic well-being. Holistic therapy. Releasing toxicity through words and truth telling is illuminated in this song. Spiritual, emotional, and psychological liberation. This is the very heart and essence of this song and video.
Lastly, there are the colors. Yes, colors and fashion are more than simple attires of measure. K. Michelle wears the Spiritual factor of red and white. Justice and truth’s revelation have been reflected. Evidence that beautiful things are birthed from darkness. And, one must return to blackness in order to see this, sometimes.
As we continue to reflect on this recent classic from K. Michelle, more thoughts and reflections, will emerge. Questions will be asked. Frustrations will be released. Its all part of the holistic journey and cleansing, that many Black American women, more maidens (and even their mothers), will experience, when listening this song. So, when it is all voiced and performed, returning into blackness, into the dark, is when Black American women become silken, soothed, and whole. Allowing themselves to experience every emotional journey of their being, and what that entails. Being truthful and honest to ourselves, and being unapologetic in doing so. And, when the world becomes to real to see or experience, we can always return to the darkness of night, the dawn of the light, as our safe haven. And, no we don’t have to wait on others to “see the light.” Seeing our light. That’s their choice. Yet, we can always use blackness as a retreat. And, after it has made us whole, again, we position our image back to our gardens, while restoring our Maidenal seats, in the process.