Vogue Daily

Vogue Daily – Artist of the Week

“There are probably 20 CDs in my life that I’ve listened to over and over and then really studied,” Alice Smith said last night in New York during a public conversation with author Taiye Selasi at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. “Whichever Stevie Wonder has ‘Girl Blue’ on it [Music of My Mind], anything Donny Hathaway, some opera, and that first Anita Baker album [Rapture]. I also listen to some Mariah Carey over and over and over . . . ”

“ ‘Vision of Love’?” Selasi suggested, referring to Carey’s Grammy-winning debut ballad.

“No more like, ‘Honey,’ ” Smith deadpanned.

Smith, who last week released She, her first album since 2006, doesn’t like to be categorized. After the unsatisfying experience of releasing her debut, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me, with a major record label, she decided that her follow-up would be a completely independent venture, taking almost seven years and a trip to Kauai, her “favorite place in the world,” to create it. “The label used to say, ‘You have to choose a genre or listeners literally won’t get it; they don’t have the capacity.’ But that’s ridiculous,” Smith said after the event. “It’s a song. You like it or you don’t; you move on.”

She fluidly draws on a range of influences that would be reductive to list, but suffice it to say that Smith reminds us, in equal parts, of Alicia Keys and Jeff Buckley, whose song “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” she likes to cover. In the green room after the event, Smith credits her openness to having lived in both the North (eighteen years in New York) and the South (Washington D.C. and Georgia). “My approach is a little broader than it would be if I were just in D.C.,” she says of the city where she’s currently living with her partner and two-year-old daughter. “Everybody’s so stuck in ten, 20, even just five years ago, but we’re in such a state of transformation. You just can’t think that way anymore, trying to put everyone into boxes. It’s an incomplete assessment.”

Perhaps less modern is the CD case for She, on which is printed every lyric of every song on the album and seems anachronistic in the era of iTunes. “I don’t understand why people don’t [include the lyrics],” Smith says. “That’s the whole point of having the box!”

by Mark Guiducci

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