Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

“Black Rainbows” review: Corinne Bailey Rae reclaims her artistry in transcendent new album

Girl, you need to put this record on
Maleigh Crespo
Corinne Bailey Rae performing on stage at the Orpheum Theatre on Sept. 26, 2023. Rae is on tour for her album, “Black Rainbows.”

When you hear the soulful lyricist singing, “Girl, put your records,” on the radio, you probably immediately start singing along to every word.

But you probably have no idea who the mastermind behind that 2006 song is.

Let me fill you in — it’s Corinne Bailey Rae, who is still putting out bops to this day.

Her latest album, “Black Rainbows” is absolutely transcendent, and it explores genres and sounds you’d never expect from the artist. The album explores themes of Black identity and femininity through the musical lens and genius of CBR — who is not playing by any rules with her unparalleled  4th record.

A Spell, A Prayer – 10/10
If the opening song sets the tone for the rest of the album, this song sets the bar high for “Black Rainbows.” Once you reach the halfway point of the song, the beat drops and you hear CBR belting “a lightning strike” — I swear I can feel her voice radiating through my spine during that line. It’s a kind of feeling that’s indescribable, yet so penetrative. Not to mention, the musicality alone is so moving.
Black Rainbows – 9.5/10
As the album’s title-track, I did expect a little more, but I wasn’t disappointed by this song in the slightest. CBR shared on social media and on tour that the album was largely inspired by the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago, which features archives of the Black experience in America.
Erasure – 10/10
Hearing this song live, changed my life in ways I never knew possible. It’s a song about the attempted erasure of Black womanhood, specifically during slavery when enslaved women were forced to do much of the housework for white families, while also being forced to remain in the background – unacknowledged. Somehow, CBR manages to capture that frustration and devaluation in this song and turn it into an anthem that reclaims the true power and beauty of Black femininity.
Earthlings – 7.5/10
CBR, herself, described the song as “psychedelic” in her behind the song series on YouTube, and that perfectly describes “Earthlings.” It’s weird, yet CBR has a way of keeping you invested in the song, despite its eccentric sound. While it’s ranked lowest among the album’s songs, there is no bad song on this record, and this one is no exception.
Red Horse – 9/10
“Red Horse” is such a sensual song about finding the one you’ve been waiting for, and it’s a beautiful portrayal of finding “the one.”
New York Transit Queen – 10/10
Inspired by a photograph of New York’s Miss Transit in 1954, Audrey Smaltz, this song is unlike any other CBR song. She describes it as “riot grrrl punk,” and I couldn’t agree more. It exhibits a sort of relentless female power and provocativeness that is truly electrifying.
He Will Follow You With His Eyes – 10/10
This song quickly rose to the top of my “On Repeat” list on Spotify. CBR said it was inspired by women displayed in the Stony Island Arts Bank who used their beauty and prowess to attract the male gaze and their way of sharing and selling their secrets and charms with other women. The ending verse is also one of the most inspiring parts of the whole album, as CBR chants “My plum-red lipstick, my black hair kinking / My black skin gleaming, my plum-red lipstick” as a way of mimicking the women in the magazines. Listening to these lines makes me feel beautiful and empowered — and also makes me want to go out and buy a tube of plum-red lipstick.
Put It Down – 10/10
As someone who often feels as if she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, this song feels like a permission slip to let go. It’s a lyrical reminder that when you’ve got too much inside, you’ve got to “dance it out,” and that you are deserving of that dance and that freedom.
Peach Velvet Sky – 8/10
Admittedly, I didn’t love this song upon first listen, but truthfully, I didn’t understand it. As I was sitting in the audience of the live performance as CBR told the story of the woman who inspired this song, I was touched. Harriet Jacobs hid from her abuser for 7 years, only seeing the outside world, including her children, through a tiny hole in the wall of her grandmother’s attic. The unadulterated beauty and soul that CBR pours into this song seeps into my body when I listen to this song, and it’s transformative.
Before The Throne Of The Invisible God – 7/10
In this song, CBR lulls you into a trance-like state with her effortless vocals and the melodious instrumentation. It’s a sound bath of strength and solidarity.

This album truly exceeded my expectations of what Black musicality can be and how it can transcend time, genre, and generations. Corinne Bailey Rae is a force to be reckoned with, and she has shown that you can only expect the unexpected from her with this genre-bending record. She’s shown that she’s more than just the girl telling you to put your records on, and “Black Rainbows” is her unapologetic way of proving herself and her skills beyond that 2006 hit — as she should.

“Black Rainbows” is now available on Apple Music and Spotify.

Illustration by Ariel Landry

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About the Contributor
Maleigh Crespo
Maleigh Crespo, Editor in Chief
Maleigh Crespo serves as the Maroon's Editor in Chief. Maleigh previously served as the Maroon's  Managing Editor for Print, Design Chief, Equity and Inclusion officer, and Op/Ed editor. When she’s not writing, she can be found listening to Taylor Swift on repeat, online shopping, or feeding the squirrels in Audubon.

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