Being nominated for four Grammy Awards in the same year is definitely quite an honor and illustrates a high level of talent. Even though British artist Yola did not win any of them, she is in focus of the music industry. Her second album Stand For Myself will be released on 30th July 2021. Here are my thoughts about the very personal work.
Yola – About The Artist
Yola, whose full civil name is Yolanda Quartey, was born in Bristol, England, in 1983. She initially got some fame with her band Phantom Limb, which released an album in 2010. After working as a background singer, she turned solo. Yola’s initial release was the EP Orphan Offering in 2016. Her debut album Walk Through Fire reached the UK charts in early 2019. She received four Grammy nominations in 2020, including the Best New Artist one. While Phantom Limb was rather doing a mixture of country and soul, her solo works are rather Americana roots music.
Yola – Stand For Myself – Track by Track
The twelve song album lasts 46 minutes.
1. Barely Alive
Barely Alive is a rather slow opener to Stand For Myself. It is a song about the pressure to assimilate and living in white-dominated social structures. Especially the chorus is very powerful and impressive and feels like a big stage show performance. Impressive track with a lot of soul.
2. Dancing Away in Tears
Breaking up is always hard to do
One last dance is all I want with you
I can’t go and do it all again
And pretend that I ever wanted to
We’re dancing away in tears
The music we make disappears
The second song is accompanied with a more present rhythm, which underlines the soul-pop character of the track. Already in the first minutes of the album, Yola is catching me and doing an impressive performance.
3. Diamond Studded Shoes
Diamond Studded Shoes is again a very social-critic track. The song comes with a very strong groove, which for the first time obviously adds Americana elements to the soul-ish character of the song.
Fight, for the life and soul of the world we love
Fight, cause the promise is never gonna be enough
A very energetic performance, which still does not touch me as well as the two songs before did.
4. Be My Friend
Especially Dan Dugmore, who is playing the steel guitar in Be My Friend, is adding quite some country music spirit to Be My Friend. The album has definitely reached the soul-Americana grounds now – and it sounds good with that blending!
5. Great Divide
Great Divide is one of these majestic, powerful performance. I somehow feel to see Yola on a big state with a large band and people having their mouth wide open as they are fascinated listening to the performance. Not that surprising – as Yola has been accompanied by eleven additional musicians in this song only. If you are able to have one organ, two pianos, three guitars, bass, drums, percussion and two background vocals in one song… and add a lot of talent… you are able to reach the sound of this amazing track.
Yola’s team simply did not spare any effort and expenses to turn Stand for Myself into a massive album. Starlight is another example for this. I won’t give you the list of musicians involved to this song again (actually, there are even more people and instruments in the credits than at Great Divide). Just listen to the result. It just feels to be on point.
7. If I Had To Do It All Again
The track is about friendship and connecting each other to become stronger. If I Had To Do It All Again is dominated by the rhythmic work of Aaron Frazer on the drums and percussionist Sam Bacco. And, of course, the voice of Yola herself. The artist feels a bit of quiet in this song initially, but then this track is gathering more and more power and energy.
8. Now You’re Here
The previous tracks of the album have been very soul-ish. The dominating genre and style of Now You’re Here is definitely soul as well, but there is a stronger touch of Americana in this track. I feel that Yola is a perfect artist match to that blending of genres.
Now you’re here
There is sunlight in the midnight
It’s crystal clear Ai yai yai yai yai
Guess it took a little time
Baby, now you’re mine
9. Whatever You Want
Whatever You Want is one of my favorites of the album. A very energetic song with a strong message and a nice touch of Americana songs. The chorus is just great and stays in mind from the very first listen.
10. Break the Bough
Break the Bough is an uptempo song with a lot of soul and power. This time, Yola is even accompanied by horns, which lead to a nice sound. Great work by Nick Movshon on the bass, who is creating a nice vibe.
11. Like a Photograph
Yola closes her album with the two longest tracks. The longest one is Like A Photograph, which starts like a beautiful R&B ballad, but then has rather powerful parts here and there. Really nice listen.
12. Stand for Myself
Finally, there is the title track. Stand for Myself adds a very own character to the album. There is even a touch of indie-rock in some of the electronic guitar parts. Impressive way to close the album.
Yola – Stand For Myself – Spotify
Here is Stand For Myself on Spotify:
Yola – Stand For Myself – My View
Yola and her team invested a lot of effort into Stand For Myself. No doubt it pays back. The twelve songs are a very good listen. I would just long to have a bit more versatility, some more surprising moments like the very cool title track at the end of the album. Thus, I just don’t see the very top rating for this album, but a really good one.
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