We are major fans of Little Simz since 2014, especially since her “Time Capsule” collaboration with Jakwob and Caitlyn Scarlett (which we simply have to mention because at the end of the article we’ll be mentioning a different kind of time capsule) – she was, back then, in her own words, ‘one to watch’, with her clever wordplays, offbeat delivery, unpredictable song structures and especially the overall effect of her lyrics, which left one with a lot to think about.
We somehow missed (probably due to Facebook seemingly changing their rules for musician pages and all the likes and follows being lost) the release of Little Simz’s ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ album. It was left to Alena Smith’s Apple show about a certain great American poet to provide a stunning surprise in the first episode of season 3, by featuring Simbi’s ‘Introvert’ during a great sequence which simply merits a deeper analysis.
First of all, just a bit about Dickinson the tv-show: Alena Smith’s creation puts a modern spin (not only through OST, dialogue and slang, but also the themes) on what should have been a costume drama, and the results are funny, biting, and actually very respectful towards Dickinson’s poems. A verse from a poem read in a wistful voice by Hailee Steinfeld – usually at the end of every episode – and presented in golden letters is the emotional catharsis to offset the more wild moments (like having Death played by Wiz Khalifa, complete with spectral carriage and horses, or characters using words like ‘woke’, ‘gaslighting’, ‘cancelled’, or just ‘dude, chill’). The show is deeply irreverent and filled with witty anachronisms.
And then there’s the soundtrack – whenever there’s music in this show, everything is firing on all cylinders. There hasn’t been a better-curated soundtrack since Ryan Murphy unleashed his favorites on ‘Nip/Tuck’ and elevated every scene 15 years ago. This series really has it all – love, death, jokes, feminism, teen drama, social commentary, and Hailee Steinfeld is the perfect choice to play a young Emily.
Season 3 sees Emily having to deal with the ongoing Civil War and choosing to stand by her family, a family that still doesn’t quite understand her. Hope and division are the biggest themes of the season, and in the first scene, we see her acting out a fantasy of being in the trenches as a Union soldier and almost living through a ‘No Man’s Land’ scene of her own. As she ascends a set of stairs, Little Simz’s “Introvert” starts playing, and it is a crowning achievement for both the show and the song itself.
‘Introvert’ is about war, both the war inside and the war on the streets, Black history and police brutality. The orchestral percussion might as well be war drums, and the video sometimes takes the same approach FKA Twigs took with ‘Don’t Judge Me’, but is simply epic in scope, touching on both pressing current issues (‘Corrupt government officials, lies and atrocities/ How they talking on what’s threatening the economy/ Knocking down communities to re-up on properties‘) and inner struggles (‘Angel said, “Don’t let you ego be a disturbance”/ Inner demon said, “Motherfucker, you earned this”/ Like they strip you of everything you’re deserving/ Realize there is a prison in us, we are conditioned as fuck/ Man, it’s like they can’t sleep ’til our spirit is crushed’). Using brilliant choreography and haunting imagery, the video is simply one of the best of the decade, the song transcends any definition (call it ‘orchestral rap’ if you will, and you could also throw in the ‘protest’ word in there), and the fact that it was released in the same year when “The Underground Railroad”, not “The Crown” was the best show on tv actually benefits it. Maybe not so coincidentally, The Crown’s own Emma Corrin, who played Diana Spencer, is a special guest star on the whole album and there to narrate the song’s spellbinding (and yet, compared to the rest of the it, pretty abstract) coda, while Simz collaborator Cleo Sol takes over chorus duty.
Why are we even doing this ‘Heard On’ section at all, you might ask? Because, while most of everything might be part of the problem right now, movies, tv shows and web-series are still the best source for promotion for an artist that might not receive it by other means, because of obfuscating algorithms, frequent changes in social media policies, or more simply put, bias. For now, shows and movies that are aware of their power to change hearts and minds and have creators that are themselves dedicated to fighting injustice might be the best promotion space for songs like ‘Introvert’, better than any marketing campaign. That, when used right, they end up enhancing the scene they’re featured in (some might argue that Dickinson might be guilty of some level of cultural appropriation when using ‘Introvert’ in that exact scene, but the show has tackled racism head-on and features a Black battalion in its third season, while the song IS primarily about war and womanhood) becomes secondary to just putting the track out there for most underground artists.
But the real blessing is that, sometimes, technology works in these artists’ favor without actually necessarily meaning to: Giving ‘Introvert’ a listen, because of Youtube’s ‘next song’ feature, you might find yourself listening to the entire Simz discography over the course of one evening, and be a better person because of it.
“Introversion is my superpower, it’s something that protects me and shields me. I am this way inclined but in the same breath, I’m not unconfident in myself – I’m very confident. I just know that I haven’t got to necessarily be the loudest person in the room. Sometimes, in an industry like this, you feel like it might require you to be extroverted because you’re always in front of the camera, you’re always on stage. So, when you’re away from that, you have to be the same. (…) It’s about showing people that you can be yourself and exist in whichever space you want to exist in, and that’s fine. Someone will love you for it, so you take that and make wicked art” – Little Simz
In place of any conclusion, here’s another favorite cut from Simz, ‘No More Wonderland’:
Featured image: Stolen Series by Adrian Brandon – https://mymodernmet.com/adrian-brandon-stolen-series/
Also a great site to visit: https://www.theblackartrising.com/ – “A Digital Time Capsule to immortalize Black Protest art”