It has been two years since sultry voiced singer Chrisette Michele released her stunning gold-certified debut I Am. Blessed with a gorgeous instrument and described as a “soulful songbird” by Entertainment Weekly, the Long Island native proved to the world that she could live up to the hype. Nominated for a BET Award for Best New Artist as well as two Grammy’s, I Am was both a critical success and a fans delight.
Still, when it came time to begin recording her follow-up, the aptly titled Epiphany, she realized the need to challenge herself. “I felt like I was a little too shy and laidback my first time out,” confesses Chrisette. “On my new project I wanted to raise the bar and step-out of my comfort zone. I wanted to make songs that were more edgy, youthful and urban.
Recruiting talented collaborators that include Ne-Yo, the singer/songwriter has infused her jazz vocal style with more pop. Marking a transition away from her traditional leanings to a fuller integration of hip-hop soul, Chrisette Michele was clearly conscious of the next level. Yet, as can clearly be heard on her newest single “Epiphany (I’m Leaving),” the 26-year-old has expanded her musical palette.
Constructed by Ne-Yo and Chuck Harmony, the title-track is a beautiful broken-hearted song that reveals the emotional misery behind Chrisette’s lovely smile. “Ne-Yo took out time from his crazy schedule to talk about direction for some of the songs, including the pain of break-ups and the joys of new love,” says Chrisette.
Opening with spacey keyboards and girl group backgrounds, Chrisette’s bold declaration of fly girl independence (“It’s over,” she sings) on “Epiphany (I’m Leaving)” sets the tone of most of the disc. “That word ‘epiphany’ just meant so much to me, because it was during the time that I was preparing to record that something clicked in my spirit.”
Chrisette’s coming back much tougher! Nowhere does that toughness come across more than on the soulful “Blame It on Me.” An awesome ballad that colors itself with a little Muscle Shoals soul, there is red dirt earthiness that is just completely raw. “You can say whatever you want, as long as its goodbye,” Chrisette wails coldly.
That song is an amazing collaboration with Claude Kelly and Chrisette’s writing with Chuck Harmony producing. A producer/ songwriter who is part of Ne-Yo’s production collective Compound Entertainment, Chuck has worked on projects with Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson and Celine Dion.
Since the release of her I Am, Chrisette has always toured endlessly with her band: the Truth and other R&B singers, Raheem DeVaughn, and Solange Knowles. “To me, nothing is more important than touring,” she says. “Communicating with the audience through song can be magical. Singing in the studio is one thing, but you must be able to bring it to the stage too.”