When she dropped her self-titled debut album ten years ago, Corinne Bailey Rae was a cute singer-songwriter whose image (lots of low-key vintage dresses and flats; the occasional tasteful vintage party dress; her beautiful big loose curls worn in a short ‘do) matched her music – which was smart, literate, witty, and full of feeling. By the time she dropped her sophomore album The Sea in 2010, which came in the wake of the death of her husband, she’d slinked up, discovered high end fashion, grown out her hair (she has what is inarguably one of the sexiest heads of hair in all of showbiz) and become a smoldering sex symbol, even as the music itself had evolved into much more complex, sophisticated fare. For many artists, the evolution is either/or: unapologetic glamor or more challenging artistry. Ms. Rae seamlessly fuses the two.
In “The Skies Will Break,” her latest and fourth video from her current album The Heart Speaks in Whispers (following clips for “Been to the Moon,” “Stop Where You Are,” and “Green Aphrodisiac“) the singer/songwriter hews closely to a visual formula in which she’s filmed against some massive expanse of a landscape – either rocky and barren, or green and lush – and is the sole living being as she lip syncs, emotes, and rocks assorted high fashion looks. What prevents it all from merely coming off as a glossy magazine shoot is the music itself. In the case of “Skies,” which is a slightly different mix than that found on the album, that means a soft House vibe to the music – prominent keys, a throbbing beat, assorted synth effects, and affirming lyrics. (The track begs from an old-school, deep House remix by MK or David Morales.) The whole album is fantastic, a smart, uplifting work that hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves and is well worth your time.