The first time I knew of Jessie Reyez was in the song Sola, from her Grammy-winning EP album Being Human In Public. I was immediately spellbound with her uniquely sultry, and striking voice, that reminded me of Björk mixed with Natalia Lafourcade. The Canadian singer-songwriter from Colombian parents has been making headlines for a while with her in-your-face and soulful/whimsical vibe. She has collaborated with artists such as Eminem, 6BLACK, and even Beyonce.
Her debut album, Before Love Came To Kill Us, presents a modern love story that is filled with deep, rampant, soulful, and (especially) spiritual elements. The lyrics of the album are beyond relatable, with Reyez songwriting skills delivering flawless symmetry between each track. Also, can we talk about her bars? Sis is an MC all the way!
The themes of spirituality, death, and love are deeply engraved in the Latinx cultural background, and one of the things that stood up for me was how subtle (but almost obvious) Reyez used Latinx stereotypes to convey her message. Songs like Intruders, Coffeys, Imported, and Love in the dark are an example of this. Yet, a song like Ankles, might be overlooked in this category. The line “these bitches can’t measure up to my ankles“, probably is derived from a very popular Spanish-speaking phrase: “no me llegas ni a los tobillos“; meaning that I am so important, the highest level you’ll ever achieve is my ankles. Periodt! However the song that threw me out of the park was La Memoria. This is a heartfelt Spanish ballad that boasts Reyez passionate voice as the main instrument, with a piano on the background. Sis gives us VO-cals, and I’m here for it!
Speaking of passion, is important to know that Latin women are often viewed as “crazy” or “overly dramatic”; just like black women are often viewed as “angry” or “too tough”. Women in the Latinx community have been the subject of misogyny for centuries, starting with the ones we love. Latinx women love intensely and with a fevering passion; we go hard for the person we adore. This has led to the belief that we are “an emotional mess” when, in reality, emotions are messy, and we have never been afraid to say what we feel. Every single track of the album explores this; pushing us to embrace our crazy and not be afraid of our feelings, no matter how complicated they are.
Ultimately, love is the protagonist, and the album is nothing short of amazing. Reyez is not only a gifted songwriter and singer, but a musical mastermind able to bring together different genres and make her own.