India.Arie wants to have a “Songversation” with you. So it’s fitting that that’s the title of her latest recording, out last month. The singer/songwriter, best known for her boundary breaking songs “Video” and “I Am Not My Hair” took a 4-year break, recording another project called “Open Door,” then scratched that and completed “Songversation” in 7 months. Arie says the break was necessary to heal her spirit.
“I’ve been through a lot of personal transformation and spiritual transformation in the last four years. And health stuff,” Arie told the Tom Joyner Morning Show during her Red Velvet Cake studio appearance for In-Studio Jam. “And a lot of it was difficult. When I came through the other side of that, I didn’t have any music to bring with me. [The health issues stemmed from] When you’re out of alignment and you just don’t feel good. I was exhausted all the time because of the way my life was every day. “
Arie shared more of her journey on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” series. She says that this album reflects her healing on songs like “Break My Shell,” inspired by a conversation with Cicely Tyson and “’This Love,” where she shares her commitment to fully being herself.
“Cicely Tyson inspired the song. She told me she wanted me to break my shell and let life touch me and I remembered it, obviously. “Break My Shell” is probably the most important song for me on “Songversation.”
This project, with its Middle Eastern influences, live instrumentation and spiritual themes (“Open Door” was a world music album) is obviously different from most of the rest of the music played on the radio. But so were her biggest hits.
Arie enjoys a respect within the musical community and her fans that was tested when accusations of skin bleaching accompanied her “Cocoa Butter” single release. On the single cover, Arie looks noticeably lighter than in real life. Twitter, of course, went ballistic over it, sending nasty tweets Arie’s way.
“There are some people who still don’t believe me, but then the bottom line question is why did she let it go out like that? I work with a top-notch creative team of women and nobody saw it like that. We didn’t look at it like that. We saw a picture that was luminous and we saw a dress that was metallic and a background that was metallic and skin that looked luminous. It didn’t look light-skinned. I didn’t address it because I thought my reputation would speak for itself and it has it has died down.
A couple of weeks later, we were sitting around having a creative meeting and everyone had the picture up on their computer. And it looked different on each person’s computer, phone and iPad. Some of them didn’t look glowing. It looked like it was light. So some people are seeing it that way, depending on your device. Digitial format is not true to what you see in a photograph.
India.Arie On “Songversation,” Creativity, Life and That Skin-Bleaching Thing was originally published on blackamericaweb.com