Hip-hop and R&B have been mostly male dominated genres for years. Nat King Cole, Al Green, Prince, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson – these are just a few of the men who have, throughout the years, built the genre from the ground up and left large legacies behind. Of course, many females have made big names in R&B as well: Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, etc. While they have achieved such success, that success still seems slightly shrouded by that of the males. It doesn’t seem based in talent or album sales, but rather in plain old sexism that is all too alive and prevalent in many different art forms. Don’t believe me? It took only a quick Google search to see multiple current female R&B artists, like Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot, doing interviews about the male domination they still experience. As we enter 2019, I can only hope the number of female R&B artists grows and they begin to dominate or at least even the playing field. Mia Mi may become part of the new wave with her single, “Talk to Me”.
The song begins with a funky electric guitar, reminiscent of old school soul music. Then a snappy beat comes in, slow and steady, but it still flows perfectly along with the guitar. Delicate little melodies played on an acoustic guitar enter the background and add a bit of sweetness to the sound. Mia Mi begins to sing. Her voice is utterly perfect, a precise vibrato, a depth of tone, smooth and completely controlled. Her sound reminds me of Kehlani and Tori Kelly, two talented female artists who have been on the rise for the past two years or so. Her voice holds so much soul and she has this great ability to sound vulnerable at times and powerful in other moments. It’s an impressive balance. She also does this flawless run at the end of the song and it sounds effortless. She’s definitely not hard to love. Altogether, her voice and music combined reminds me of ballads from some of the great female R&B artists of the 90s like Aaliyah and Brandy, which is a huge compliment.
Baby girl, ooh, I know that you’re hurtin’,
yeah, I know that it seems so hard.
You’re so lost and you just don’t know where you’re going,
you wanna rise up but you don’t know where to start.
The whole song sounds like she is giving advice to a younger sister or brother, someone with less wisdom and experience. She has been where they’ve been and understands their pain. She knows how hard it is to begin your journey and wants to lend a helping hand and let them know it’s okay. It’s normal to feel this way.
So say the word, cause somebody’s listenin’,
and you’ll be heard.
Won’t you stop runnin’, one day you’ll learn.
So don’t worry about nothin’.
There’s always somewhere to turn.
She is reassuring them that things will get better and they will feel okay again. She is willing to listen and support them if no one else will. They never have to worry about feeling alone.
If you just talk to me, talk to me.
Won’t you just lean on me?
I’ll be that anchor for you.
If you just talk to me, talk to me.
Won’t you just trust in me?
I’ll be here waiting for you.
She doesn’t want them to bottle all their worries, fears, and emotions inside. She wants them to express themselves and let themselves open up. She wants them to trust her and let her be by their side.
Baby boy, they’ve always told you that you can’t cry.
I just wish that you were given the same chance.
They all thought a tear would never drop from your eye.
Who would have known this day would really be your last?
In this verse, she is attacking the sexist ideals society has when it comes to raising boys vs. raising girls. Boys are encouraged to be strong and stoic, to never let themselves be weak. Crying is weak. This boy has held himself together his whole life and never let himself lose control or be really, truly sad. But not anymore. She wants him to let go and cry, let himself feel what he’s feeling.
Promise I’ll listen to every word spoken,
I just need permission from you.
The things that you’re missin’ but keepin’ it secret,
it can mess with your head, oh it’s true.
Maybe this person, in the past, has opened up and expressed themselves but still never felt heard. She is saying she won’t do that. She will listen to every word and make their feelings important and valid. She just needs them to let her in willingly. Keeping all these thoughts to yourself can become toxic and lead you away from the truth.
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