Rhiannon Giddens Is a Songwriter, Too

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Most of the songs on Giddens’ album focus on the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships. Giddens explains that composing songs about relationships is an easy option, often leaving a lingering feeling of heartache and rejection. The opening track, “Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad,” pays homage to 1960s Muscle Shoals soul with its horn section and backup vocals that chant “shoop, shoop, wah-ooh.”

The album’s title track, “You’re the One,” is also a love song, but it delves into the unconditional love a mother feels for her newborn child. Giddens explains that postpartum depression created a barrier between her and her daughter, but as she emerged from the darkness, her world came alive in a new and vibrant way. A banjo and fiddle tune evolves into an exultant chorus, as Giddens sings about the transformation she experienced.

Giddens acknowledges that some listeners have criticized the album for its poppy sound, but she simply views it as catchy music that originated from her banjo playing.

Despite exploring themes of love and relationships, Giddens has not abandoned her socially conscious principles. The album features a song titled “Another Wasted Life,” which displays a bleak and contemporary sound with minor chords and a hip-hop undertone. The song is Giddens’ response to the tragic story of Kalief Browder, who took his own life after being incarcerated for three years, primarily in solitary confinement, at Rikers Island.

In “Yet to Be,” a more uplifting and purposeful lesson is presented. The song combines elements of folk rock and an Irish jig, narrating the tale of two migrants who find love while working at an American bar. Giddens sings about their relationship leading to the birth of a child, symbolizing a fresh start.

Giddens stresses her belief in focusing on survival rather than being consumed by negativity. She highlights the power of music and how it brings people together, sharing stories and creating bonds. Giddens expresses her desire to bring new listeners into her world, using these songs as an entry point for them to explore her other work.

Following the album’s release, Giddens will embark on a tour with a full band, in contrast to her previous stripped-down performances with Turrisi. She acknowledges her intensity as a performer but hopes to attract a new audience to her music through these songs. Giddens believes that once they experience her live shows, they will discover the depth and variety of her artistry.

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