Lola Bleu (a.k.a. Janell McCracken)
We cover a lot of indie rock, pop, folk, etc. here at Radio KRUD, mostly cause that’s what the kids seem to be into thes
e days, so that’s what ends up coming our way most often. Not that I dislike all that stuff, it’s just nice to have some variety. For instance, I’m a fan of the sweet, bumping vibes of modern R&B, so it’s great to see some of that goodness adrift in the indie ocean that is my inbox. Today, I bring that goodness to you in the form of Lola Bleu.
Lola Bleu, whose real name is Janell McCracken, is a talented, 22-year old singer from Michigan, and her debut album Love Will Find a Way isn’t what you’d expect out of an R&B artist’s initial release: it’s a concept album (you didn’t expect that, right?). It’s a fairly basic concept taken from her real life experience of breaking up, coping with the aftermath, and then finally finding the right guy. It’s a tale that you can easily relate to, and the execution is excellent with the natural progression of emotion as the album moves forward.
The album starts off with a quick intro track featuring a phone call between Lola and another girl where she is complaining about her relationship. I have to admit that this track bugs me just because of the ringtone at the beginning. Some instinctual, primitive part of my brain can’t help but react to that sound and say, “My phone’s ringing! I gotta pick it up!”
Anyway, the intro flows into the track “Hate to Wake Up,” which is about that horrible feeling when you know a relationship you’ve invested so much of your time into is not working out. It’s like waking up from a wonderful dream into a reality you’d rather not face just yet, hence the title. This song and the two after it focus on that painful part right after the breakup. “Deep Pain” is the standout of that trifecta. It’s the climax of that emotional stage. Lola Bleu’s voice sings out with so much soulful energy backed by thick layers of such emotionally intense instrumentation that you feel the pain of her experience as if it was your own.
But in an emotional 360, as is so common with people, that song leads directly into “So Over You.” You can probably guess what part after the breakup that song is about just by the title. It’s a fun, celebratory letting loose with a strong sensation of freedom. It even sounds like a Gospel song in some aspects, which is strangely appropriate.
I’ll admit, the waters get a little murky throughout the rest of the album. Based on the songs and their lyrics, it’s tough to tell whether Lola gets back together with the old guy again, things go south again, and then she meets the finds the right guy, or if she meets a new guy, things get rocky, but everything turns out alright. I think this is one of those classic “It’s up to the audience” situations. So I guess you guys will just have to go get the album and find out!
So up until now I’ve spent most of the time talking about the concept behind the album, but what about the actual music? Well, I wouldn’t even bother with all that concept stuff if it didn’t have some good tunes to support it. Not only does Lola Bleu have a beautifully soulful voice, but there is a surprising amount of stylistic variety to be found in the album as well. Of course Love Will Find a Way comes with the standard R&B fare, catchy beats with a booming bass for example, but you can also hear some unexpected elements thrown into the mix. There’s a hint of trancey synth pop in “Love Will Find a Way,” a unique blend of alt rock’s distorted buzz mixed with a Lady Gaga-ish dance groove in “Get Away,” and a very sing-songy choir of voices, mostly overdubbed, that is very reminiscent of a cappella in “Where Do We Go From Here.” It’s weird, but that last song makes me think of The King’s Singers. Very weird.
On that note, let me just close things up and say that you should definitely check out Love Will Find a Way if you want to listen to some good, fresh R&B by a talented, young singer who brings some unique twists to the genre. And if this only the beginning, I’m eager to see where she progresses from here.