Rough, ragged, raw. Those three adjectives just brush the corners of the voice of Belgian artist SelahSue. Encountering her after a stumble through the world of Youtube I had to stop and take a look around. Inspired by funk, pop and reggae music, the 22-year-old cites Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu as influences and you can hear that in her Euro-fusion voice and Lauryn-esque chord structures. Yet, there is something exceedingly haunting and uncanny about her half-formed voice which emerges like sharp bursts from her throat before being chopped off, her mouth finishing the sound in silence.
When SelahSue sings, the intention is focused acutely in her eyes, in the pained expression of her mouth, and the slightly mis-placed timing of her chords. Yet it is endearing, it’s strangely seductive and painful. I’m aware that the music world is veering very widely between commercial success and the avant-garde, the ‘undefinable.’ There is a new interest in artists who are like musical versions of Jackson Pollock paintings – the classics among us wonder whether they really are singers, musicians, if they actually have a talent or are just there for some slightly precocious person to appear ‘ahead of the game.’ Perhaps some may see SelahSue this way, but even after you’ve finished listening and maybe even critiqued on the harshness of her vocals, the raw, almost bloody-hacking tone of her voice, the awkward formations of her mouth, and the slightly unfocused poignancy of her look, you go away and hear a faint echo drawing you back in. There is a mellifluous attitude that shapes the movement of her voice, and a fresh authenticity in her lyrics. Stripped, naked, and oddly wholesome, her music seems to reach out a gentle hand and stroke deep inside, before disappearing like an ephemeral whisp of smoke.