REVIEW: Corinne Bailey Rae’s "The Sea": Mourning Becomes Beauty

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Corinne
Bailey Rae’s much anticipated sophomore album The Sea premieres today in the U.S. four years after her
self-titled debut captured fans on both sides of the pond with “Like a Star”
and almost two years since the much publicized death of her husband, Jason Rae.
Though loss permeates the album, which Bailey Rae describes as more “intense
and heavy” than her first, The Sea
isn’t a bunch of sad songs. Like some of our best artists—Billie Holiday and
Nina Simone come immediately to mind—Corinne Bailey Rae takes pain and transforms
it into the beauty of stolen moments and cherished memories.

Her opening song
“Are You Here” is a case in point. Bailey Rae’s caressing voice accompanied by a simple
guitar riff pays tribute to her lost love with a sweet and subtle invocation:
“He’s a real live wire/He’s the best of his kind/Wait til you see those eyes.”
That sweetness punctuates the album, which is billed as pop, but is an amalgam
of soul, jazz, rock, and folk. The soft moans and sensuous rhythm of “Closer,”
my hands-down favorite track, revives the soulful sound of Minnie Riperton and
The Emotions. The album flows from the more intimate tracks like “Closer” and
“I Would Like to Call it Beauty” (written with her brother-in-law) to a rock
and retro mood in “The Blackest Lily” (recorded with Amir “?uestlove” Thompson
and James Poyser) and “Paris
Nights/New York Mornings.” The closing title track captures the album’s effort
to balance the desolation of loss and the regeneration that one hopes will inevitably
follow. The final lines of “The Sea” lament: “The sea … breaks
everything/crushes everything/cleans everything/takes everything/from me.” It breaks.
It renews.

I think I’ll call it beauty.

–Jennifer Williams

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One Response to “REVIEW: Corinne Bailey Rae’s "The Sea": Mourning Becomes Beauty” Subscribe

  1. funoka January 27, 2010 at 17:00 #

    Nice review. Nice album — a great way to start 2010.

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