The first time I “met” Corinne Bailey Rae was the summer of 2007. I was in my big brother’s apartment 9B when I heard the soft yet cavernous themes of her self-titled debut album. I had already pledged my loyalty to Amy Winehouse at the time, and didn’t think the UK would have more than one chanteuse who could deliver several genres of music–folk, blues, R&B and soul–on one record. Corinne proved me wrong.
But life dealt Corinne a bad blow when she lost her husband, Jason Rae in 2008. The outcome was The Sea, an (understandably) darker LP that was to be expected from an artist who experienced such tragedy, yet still jarring for fans who remember her insisting to “Put Your Record On.” We accepted the space she was in and I, a devout listener, admittedly loved her from a far, or in the musical terms, after only one full listen.
So you must understand the excitement I experienced when Corinne announced her return with The Heart Speaks In Whispers. I likened the news to the night before the first day of school. The excitement of seeing old friends, the comfort of revisiting something familiar coupled with the unforeseen lessons were all running rampant as I couldn’t wait to submerge in her melodies, lyric and song.
The album’s lead single “Been To The Moon” was as refreshing as when the sun comes out on a cloudy day while walking to the market. While listeners may have gotten swept up in the jovial sound of the single, the 37-year-old guitarist is standing firm on the notion she isn’t lifting another emotional finger. If her Romeo dares make a return, it’s going to have to be him that ventures to outer space to prove his love.
The follow up, “Green Aphrodisiac” is by far the LP’s most suggestive even in its modest terms. Its soulful undertone is only accented by how sweet the actual song is. Similar to sipping the honey that sinks to the bottom of a cup of tea, the track is a kiss on a bare shoulder while you and your love are wrapped in sheets, engulfed in the aroma of the sex you two just made.
The Heart Speaks In Whispers is a full circle moment for the West Yorkshire, Brit. The emotions and vulnerabilities explored on the 16-track record creep up on you like one of those “girly” drinks at that bar that you somehow forget has an extra shot of Jameson. “Hey, I Won’t Break Your Heart” is her bravest and sings of a woman present enough to remember the pain caused by a lover she still loves, but courageous (or foolish) enough to reignite their flame. The tribal “Tell Me” is probably where Corinne sonically stretches the most, still exploring themes of love, but don’t be surprised if your Zumba instructor’s new playlist includes this four minute track in her cardio blasting routine.
While the record is a breath of fresh air for anyone needing a break from the redundancy of radio (or life) Corinne’s music has never been child’s play, despite her bouncy, playful tone. More potent than when Beyonce’s voice breaks on “Sandcastles” and less self-serving than all of Drake’s sad boy love songs, The Heart Speaks In Whispers isn’t for the faint at heart, but rather for the warrior at heart, those who have lost the use of their heart but for whatever reason are still alive and have a heart.
Corinne throws fans a reminiscent bone with “Horse Printed Dress” which sounds like it was left on the studio floor of her debut album. The song’s ooh-ooh’s flirt with listeners as Corinne’s gentle voice coo’s us in a trance. With collaborations from KING, Esperanza Spalding, The Heart Speaks In Whispers will swallow you whole. You’ll relive all that love has to offer, the good, bad and the indescribable and your heart will pulsate. It will pound and it will remind you you’re alive in the grandest way possible, not in a whisper.