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Leni Black – “How I Feel”

Inviting us to get closer with both her words and the warmth of the melody pushing them forth, Leni Black is anything but inaccessible in her new single “How I Feel;” on the contrary, she’s so open in her tone here that it’s hard to believe this is only her third official release since debuting last year. Black puts her voice at the forefront of everything in “How I Feel,” and although her style is a familiar one that can be traced to some of the classic elements in the pop genre, there’s nothing recycled or unoriginal about what she’s doing for the audience in this performance. 

The compositional structure here is definitely reminiscent of Halcyon-era Ellie Goulding, with a reduced interest in the psychedelic edging on the harmony and an increased focus on the fragility of the vocals themselves. It’s not enough for me to say that Black is trying to emulate one of her influences, but you would have to be crazy to ignore the postmodernity of this piece as it relates to the way she’s getting her point across to us. She’s not afraid to be a little cerebral with her poeticisms, while at the same time stopping well short of the stoniness so many in her peer group openly embrace. 

Black’s vocal is buried in aesthetical insularities from the start, but her presence in the chorus hints at a vulnerability I would really want her to experiment with more in the future. She’s a little guarded in this performance, using the magnetizing qualities of the instrumentation to distract us from the wounded persona of the lyricism she’s constructing in the middle of all the melodic decadence. It’s charmingly visible and still distant enough to inspire mystique, which is a difficult balance to strike for any musician, regardless of talent or experience. 

This beat is undisputedly an infectious, danceable quality in “How I Feel,” but there’s absolutely nothing strong enough in this work to steal any of the thunder away from Leni Black’s crooning. She’s just got too powerful an ability for any of the instrumental components to get in her way, and given the overwhelming brawn of the chorus (as briefly as we can appreciate it), this should tell any curious critic that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in this release. Odds are, Black has a lot left in the tank she’s yet to really exploit. 

If there’s one solo singer you need to be following out of the New England underground, I personally think it should be Leni Black, and not exclusively because of her new single “How I Feel.” For over a year now, this artist has been gaining traction not through cosmetics but instead via her own creative wit, and in the three songs she’s recorded so far, she hasn’t given me any reason to believe she’s in this medium for anything other than her own desire to express something deeper than the status quo calls for. She’s staying on my radar, and I recommend you keep a close eye on her output as well. 

Mindy McCall



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