Anytime Andra Day sings, you immediately become transfixed. When I first heard her perform live on Good Morning America, I literally couldn’t move because she was so captivating. Her voice is utterly sublime; a perfect combination of power, elegance, and control. Her demeanor is humble yet confident while her style is retro and resplendent. A once in a generation singer, she’s a muse incarnate. If music is food for the soul, then any song by Andra Day is a banquet.
Day has always had an innate musical gift. While growing up in San Diego, she became fascinated with music by listening to her parents’ favorite songs. Her father enjoyed Motown Records while her mother listened to Journey and Fleetwood Mac. Day’s love for music flourished when she began attending the School for Creative and Performing Arts. As a student, she gravitated to jazz and the voices of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.
In an era where pop and R&B reign supreme, Day is one of a kind. Her immaculate vocals are peerless and evocative of vintage jazz, blues, and soul. In a review of Day’s song “Gold,” NPR Contributor Katie Presley stated, “She’s got Eartha Kitt’s unflappable confidence, Amy Winehouse’s effortless grasp of classic jazz, Billie Holiday’s access to raw emotion and Adele’s range and pop sensibility.”
In 2012, she started doing song covers and uploading them to YouTube. Counterintuitively, Day’s most popular cover is of Eminem’s song, “Lose Yourself.” The video has over 1 million views and helped grow Day’s popularity. I never imagined anyone singing a cover of an Eminem song, but she surprisingly seized the moment. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, Day provides a soulful interpretation that still retains the original composition’s vigor. At the time, Day didn’t have a record deal so I can see why she identified with this song. Much like Marshall Mathers before his rise to fame, Day was resolute and seeking an opportunity to showcase her talents.
As she kept performing and gaining exposure, Day eventually got the chance to launch a professional career. Her music caught the attention of Stevie Wonder after his wife played some of her songs. Stevie Wonder was so impressed that he personally contacted Day and introduced her to Music Producer Adrian Gurvitz. Day would then go on to sign a deal with Warner Bros. Records.
She released her debut album, Cheers to the Fall, in August, 2015. The album features guest appearances from DJ Jazzy Jeff, Questlove and James Poyser from The Roots, and The Dap-Kings. In an interview with VIBE magazine, Day discussed the concept of her debut album. “The album is a lot about not being seized up by fear. For me, telling the truth is one of those things […] being vulnerable and telling the whole truth while allowing yourself to be judged or criticized is one of the scariest things to do. That’s something I had to do because I wasn’t living right. I was in a relationship and I was unfaithful to him and being very reckless with his emotions. It was kind of going through that, feeling guilty, getting my heart broken and understanding the weight of this which was really heavy […]So it’s really about truth, vulnerability and fearlessness.”
The first single from Cheers to the Fall, “Forever Mine,” has a classic blues/soul quality. Day’s sultry and smooth voice perfectly blends with the old school melody. The music video for the song was directed by Spike Lee and takes place in a club with Day performing in an area behind the bar called “Da Box.” Throughout her performance, Day is contemplative of her emotions stemming from failed relationships. She even writes the song’s lyrics as a journal entry. Her state of mind is reflected in the words, “My heart has been a chessboard. Making moves and losing out. Played so many times before, and there ain’t nothing to brag about. Why this must be a new brew, when you caught him singing Blue Moon. You turn me all the way around. And I’m tired of the fine line, I just want you to be, be forever mine.”
Her second single, “Rise Up,” is an instant classic. An inspirational anthem about perseverance, Day gives an impassioned performance. The command of her voice is melodious and graceful. Hearing her sing is like watching a maestro conduct a symphony. With her vocal potency and uplifting lyrics, Day channels the spirit of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” The chorus in particular resonates with resilience and courage. Day instills her will in the words, “And I’ll rise up. I’ll rise like the day. I’ll rise up. I’ll rise unafraid. I’ll rise up. And I’ll do it a thousand times again. And I’ll rise up. High like the waves. I’ll rise up. In spite of the ache. I’ll rise up. And I’ll do it a thousand times again. For you.” The song’s message is poignant and Day flawlessly shines like a beacon of hope. “Rise Up” is such a powerful composition that it’s currently being used by the Beats By Dre team for Serena Williams’ ad campaign during the 2015 U.S. Open.
Andra Day’s career is just beginning, but she’s already a high caliber talent. Her vocals are extraordinary, and she seems poised to take the music world by storm. I highly recommend her music to anyone because she is an impressive and rare artist who can appeal to a wide range of audiences.