Celeste: Not Your Muse
Celeste told us she was delivering a debut album... and boy did she deliver!
Following the release of her highly anticipated love-infused album ‘Not Your Muse’ (NYM) just a few weeks ago, Brighton-based Neo-soul singer Celeste has certainly made her mark on the music scene over the last year - and it’s clear she isn't going anywhere anytime soon!
Considering the fact that ‘NYM’ shot straight up to Number 1, the first female debut album in the UK official charts to do so in five years, it’s no wonder that she won several awards as a breakthrough artist to watch in 2020.
The LP features 12 brand new tracks, including the 3 acclaimed singles ‘Strange’, ‘Stop This Flame’ and ‘A Little Love’ (the magical track behind the John Lewis & Waitrose 2020 Christmas advert).
Having first encountered Celeste back in 2018, it was the unusual yet colourful palette of harmonies that accompanied Celeste’s unique voice in her somewhat dark track ‘Milk & Honey’ that gripped me in a heartbeat.
There are definitely some similarities that can be heard in her singing style - distinctive tones similar to that of Macy Grey together with the soul of Amy Winehouse are a few that immediately spring to mind, nor is it a surprise that Nina Simone is also one of Celeste’s biggest inspirations.
2020 seemed to be her breakout year as she emerged from performing at an intimate BBC Introducing gig to releasing tickets for her first 2022 UK tour which sold out in minutes.
When announcing the release of Not Your Muse, Celeste revealed:
“Not Your Muse is the power I found when I felt powerless... In making this album I have allowed myself to arrive at a place where I feel empowered, fiercely wide-eyed and fulfilled. I'm very proud of what I've achieved on my debut album and to be in this position, after the year that has been, I feel nothing but gratitude and excitement. I hope you enjoy it.”
So you’ve just bought the album (or added it to your library for the streamers amongst us). Now turn the lights down low, light some candles, maybe run yourself a bubble bath or get cosy with a glass of wine by the fire.
This is the kind of vibe you can expect as a perfect accompaniment to this album as Celeste immediately sets the scene with an acoustic smokescreen atmosphere presented in the first 2 tracks, ‘Ideal Woman’ and ‘Strange’.
Celeste strips everything back, almost going back to basics, to allow her vocals to really shine through. The lyrics describe heartfelt and honest stories in such a compelling and intimate way that the listener cannot help but be completely drawn in. This is definitely a common theme throughout the album, particularly in the slower tracks.
The instrumentation supporting her vocals also deserve recognition, ranging from melancholic strings (provided by musician Sebastian Plano) to a rhythmically solid band bursting with energy, power and flare.
You may be able to pick up on hints of the 70s coming through in some of the more upbeat tracks, even a sprinkle of Jazz through the horns and groovy piano rhythms.
While the backings vary according to the mood of each song, they are never overbearing. On the contrary, they act as the perfect complement to Celeste, allowing her to still explore a creative freedom in her vocals.
We all love a ballad, that’s for sure, but ‘NYM’ takes its listeners on an emotional journey through the ups as well as the downs of life.
‘Tonight Tonight’, ‘Stop This Flame’, ‘Tell Me Something I Don’t Know’, and ‘Love Is Back’ all have this rooted sense of solidarity, pride and fight to them and have become personal favourites of mine as a result.
You can feel this not only in the lyrics but also through the confidence in Celeste’s voice and the fearlessness in the exploration of her impressive vocal range, creating some really powerful moments which will only be further enhanced in live performance.
‘Not Your Muse’ is yet another example where Celeste is unapologetically true to herself. The authenticity in each and every track is real and raw - that much is undeniable.
Her honesty is infectious and is an element that has allowed so many listeners to really connect with several if not all of the tracks on this album in some way. It’s one of those albums where the more you listen to it, the more it grows on you.
Love is evidently a theme we are all too familiar with, so whether you are looking for empowerment or you want to take a moment to be reflective and calm, have a listen and let the music speak for itself.