Written by Robert Alleyne
Brit Pop didn’t happen for everyone on the other side of the pond. While Blur and Oasis were fighting over life in parks and wondering about morning glory, there was another history being written on Sunday nights in nightclubs. Starting in London then spreading through urban areas by word of mouth, tape-packs and pirate radio waves, there was a whole chapter in British music and identity being written simultaneously. Singer Anne-Marie was integral to that chapter and she’ll be at the Rickshaw Stop Friday night.
My generation joined the party with Jungle, a fusion of Caribbean sounds and Drum ‘n’ Bass, it was the perfect expression of Britain’s inner-cities – rough, gritty, but with an undertone of harmony. The more smooth, soothing and sensual dance sounds of Soul II Soul had been hyper-accelerated into music which required the bass line to be brazenly turned all the way into the reds. While the genre predominantly focused on the battle between bass and beat, many of the anthems were those which featured the vocalists — Elizabeth Troy, Nazalin, to name a few — featured on some of the most memorable records the time.
As the years progressed, the music slowed down and morphed into UK Garage. Music still firmly grounded in club culture, and music still played on a Sunday; it always starts on a Sunday. For all the energy and intensity of Jungle, UK Garage (not to be confused with the 4×4 sound out of New York in the 80s/90s) was a more carefree expression of life in the city. It was music to have fun to, music to start your week to, music to sing-a-long to, it was music made for the featured vocalist. Craig David, Shola Ama, Kele Le Roc, Daniel Beddingfield all touched the genre, using it as a springboard for future careers as solo artists. US artists were regularly remixed, their vocals dubbed at a blistering pace for a uniquely British take on familiar songs. If we remembered the bass line and the MC from Jungle, it was the featured vocalists who ran the show on Garage. The cream of the choruses rung out across high-school playgrounds, and through open car windows at traffic lights; at its peak, it felt as if Britain’s main cities were walking karaoke parties.
Soon the MC started to dominate again, the sweet vocalist dipped into obscurity as the genre evolved from 2-Step to Grime.
You can hear the fingerprints of Jungle and UK Garage living on throughout British dance music to this day, with the guest vocalist still being championed. In recent years, bands/producers such as Disclosure, Naughty Boy, and Chase & Status have introduced the world to a plethora of new singer/songwriters have shaped the sound of the British popular music scene around them.
If you’ve heard Rudimental’s Rumor Mill you’ll know exactly where Anne-Marie fits in. The way her voice floats in underneath Will Heard’s on the first chorus then bursts through and works its way through your body. This is not music to merely head nod to. This is music to make your whole body rhythmically dip on the two and the four, riding the wave of the beat into a likkle (yes, likkle) skank.
Anne-Marie has been quietly paying her dues for years. From being a touring vocalist with Benga, Skream and Artwork’s supergroup Magnetic Man (singing on songs which to this day I have not been able to find recorded version of) to touring the world with Rudimental. The Essex-born singer even found time to quietly release an EP, Karate, last year. Her latest single, “Alarm,” has helped her to further establish herself as a singer/songwriter in her own right. With over 80M plays on Spotify, she’s well on pace to be the next to wave the flag for British music around the world.
Tickets are still available to her show Friday night at The Rickshaw Stop (find them here). Bring your dancing shoes as they’ll be needed.
Written by Robert Alleyne
Press photo from Facebook