So we are almost a full month into 2017, and I'm cautiously optimistic about the upcoming year, mainly because of Liam Bailey. If you haven't already heard of Liam Bailey, now is your opportunity to sit up and pay attention. First catching the ear of the late Amy Winehouse, this Nottingham born powerhouse has gone from strength to strength under her tutelage, recording two EPs and finding himself a record deal at Winehouse’s Lioness Records. You may also recognise Liam as the voice of Chase & Status’ Blind Faith which is one of the best songs on their No More Idols album.
It is obvious why Ms Winehouse took such a liking to him, with a gorgeously smooth and soulful voice coupled with just the right amount of huskiness. Bailey's lyrical prowess is impressive too, with his latest single Love My Neighbour presenting a caustically self-aware vision of the current socio-political climate without talking down to the listener. I know, I know, what the hell am I talking about?
Love My Neighbour is, simply put, a reflection on racism and the struggles of remaining positive despite how tough the times are. Opening cautiously with minimalistic piano and muffled percussion, I was instantly hooked by Bailey's almost conversational tone. The verses are delivered with a half-spoken kind of cadence, tuneful but straightforward enough to get the words across. Each uplifting chorus is coupled with a final minor chord that brings a bitter sweetness to the whole track. Barely audible to begin with, the strings and ambient tones build up throughout, but only suit to emphasise the emotional quality of Bailey's voice, ensuring the message is heard.
If you were expecting a catchy, singalong record in the same vein of Valerie or You Know That I'm No Good, then you will be disappointed by this offering. However, with that said, Love My Neighbour is definitely a piece that grows, an idea so meaningful and masterfully written that you'll be humming it for hours. I usually try to avoid mentioning the music videos when reviewing a release, but an exception has to be made here – the visual accompaniment is powerful and moving, without being shocking or excessive. I definitely recommend checking it out.
In a similar vein to John Legend, Labrinth's Jealous and Gregory Porter, Liam is definitely one to watch, and I'm excited to hear more from him.
Words by Morton Piercewright