Natalie Prass – The Future And The Past

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The American singer-songwriter finds inspiration in 80s and 90s R&B, and politics

On first listen, you might think Natalie Prass has made one of the most fun records of 2018. It’s got searching basslines, chorus vocals and lots of percussion – this is Prass embracing the good times and reaching for the Billboard 200.

‘Oh My’, the first track on The Future And The Past, and ‘Sisters’ would not have felt out of place on the most recent Janelle Monae album ‘Dirty Computer’. Those two songs, as well as ‘Hot For The Mountain’, sound like a throwback to the lush, slow R&B Aaliyah and TLC were making in the 90s. Others take up a digitised form of pop music Michael Jackson once used to become the biggest chart success since The Beatles.

But, as with Dirty Computer, underneath that shiny exterior is a deeper struggle. Or, to put it a different way, Prass is embracing the good times because it’s her form of resistance.

 

“The record was ready to go, and then the election happened,” Prass said in a statement accompanying the album.

“I was devastated. It made me question what it means to be a woman in America, whether any of the things I thought were getting better were actually improving, who I am and what I believe in.

“I knew I would be so upset with myself if I didn’t take the opportunity to say some of the things that meant so much to me, so I decided to rewrite the record,” the 32-year-old Virginian songwriter says.

That explains the time between her debut in 2015 and this record.

And it gives you a sense of what was informing her writing on songs like ‘Sisters’, an anthem for the movement sparked by last year’s Women’s March. “I want to say it loud, for all the ones held down, we gotta change the plan,” she sings. “You gotta keep your sisters close to you.” (The song even name-checks “nasty women”.)

But while the struggle is a serious one, the sonic direction Prass is heading in this time does suggest hope. The spirit of this record is an attempt to overcome that struggle.

“I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that’s what music is all about.”

 

 

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