In The Meantime – A Lyric Review: Deep in the Pocket, Bellah Dissects A Smoggy Situation-ship with Crystalline Clarity
By Corey Anthony Tucker
As a Black artist, there exists a debilitating pressure to explicitly and expertly tackle the Black trauma we have been made to face daily. Generationally. We internalise the ideal that our art should function as an outlet, a means of alleviating the puncturing pressure of the Black collective consciousness, and that this kind of art looks and sounds a specific way.
Bellah’s In The Meantime might seem trivial, tactless even, given that, at present, white supremacist[s] structures are systemically snuffing Black lives out, and have been doing so for centuries. But in actuality, this EP serves as a timely and necessary reminder. A reminder that no matter the subject matter, Black art is inherently imbued with the Black experiences and voices of its makers.
‘Hope I’m making it clear and I’m not misunderstood’ – Bellah, Good Thing (2020). In a world that so eagerly misconstrues, mischaracterises and outright muffles the voices of Black women, Bellah is an advocate for clarity. Wielding clarity like a weapon, she clears a path through the mental fog brought on by the fucked up state of the world – and more specifically, the smoggy nature of situation-ships – allowing Bellah to emerge clear-eyed, and even more importantly, dry-eyed.
On smokily sparse EP opener Stand – complete with a trap bounce outro – Bellah inverts the notion that situation-ships are a breeding ground for insecurity. She’s not only secure in her situation-ship, she’s comfortable in the convenience that their ‘part time’ arrangement allows her to pursue her music – her main love – full time, ‘say how much I really need my space/ Ooh I couldn’t love you everyday/ I’m so Tunnel vision baby you’d get in the way’.
Bellah maintains the situation-ship because it serves her and operates on her schedule, ‘ain’t a thing loving you when it suits me’, and thus, isn’t prepared to let it encroach on energy she’d otherwise be devoting to her music, ‘if there’s no space for two I’ll go on my own/ Okay I’m alone but no I ain’t lonely […] I know my place/ Phone on do not disturb/ On the weekdays’.
Double entendre enables Bellah to allude to her quality sex game and the earnest truth that she isn’t emotionally invested in her situation-ship, ‘If you need something luke warm/ I got it on lock down/ Not hot I’m not cold/ I know my place’. The added benefit – subversion – of Bellah’s admission, is that she’s essentially given her lover the green light to fuck without the pretence of feelings, so he needn’t fake it for her sake, ‘I leave before the A.M/ You don’t pretend that you care/ At least we know where we/ Stand/ Stand/ Stand’.
Bellah’s emotional boundaries are eroding on the gliding guitar strings of Good Thing. Whilst Stand saw Bellah unsure if she could make any time for her lover, ‘maybe I should come and see ya/ God knows when that’s gonna be’, Good Thing sees Bellah realise she’s been spending too much time with him, ‘let’s take a breather’. Their situation-ship isn’t as definable as it was initially, and so their growing investment in each other leaves them unsure of what direction they’re headed, ‘can’t say where we’re going and you don’t know either’.
A tongue-in-cheek reference to Brexit alludes to their being a misalignment between what Bellah’s lover expects a relationship between them to be like and what it would actually be like. Whilst change can be for the better in theory, there’s no guarantee in practice, ‘I vote to remain/ ‘Cos I don’t like change why can’t we stay the same’.
Bellah recognises but is unable to reciprocate her lovers affection in the way that he requires, ‘I know your love language is words of affirmation/ And I ain’t got the skills for that’. Bellah does more than confess here. Rather than withhold her love because it doesn’t take her lovers preferred shape, she displays her affection the only way she knows how, ‘but I’d take a bullet for you with no hesitation’.
Bellah is reluctant to level up her situation-ship because it could come at the expense of losing a lover that is fully aware of and attuned to her idiosyncrasies, ‘so I’m walking with caution/ Maybe too damn slow/ ‘Cos losing you ain’t an option if you didn’t know/ You love me and all my crazy […] Let’s not ruin a good thing’. Ever-generous, Bellah offers a sample of the words of affirmation she’ll adorn her lover with should he accept that their levelling up will take time, ‘what we got here is heaven on earth you’re what I prayed for/ So don’t let me down and I’ll let you in’.
On the prettily pensive piano interlude Easy, Bellah reminds her lover that she never misled him, never misrepresented her intentions, ‘you knew what this was all along’ and so it’s no-one’s fault but his own that he fell for her, ‘I didn’t plan this/ You couldn’t/ Resist fucking falling in love’. She made it ‘easy’ for him to exit their situation-ship emotionally unscathed, but he ‘reneged’ on their deal not to catch feelings, effectively playing himself.
On the brazen guitar bounce of EP closer Need Me, two unrelenting narrators, Bellah and her music, take turns in reminding one other that they require each other to feel a sense of fulfilment, ‘I love the way that you need me’. Each part of the song can be flipped from Bellah’s perspective to that of her music and still work eerily well.
For example, ‘just found out you’re a fixer upper/ Now I got doubts maybe this ain’t love’, could refer to Bellah knowing that she must commit herself to her music in order to better their relationship and transform their conditional love into unconditional love. Conversely, from the perspective of Bellah’s music, this lyric could be implying that Bellah the person, not the artist, must practice self love, love herself through her self doubt, in order to better herself and thus, better her music.
A cruel mistress, Bellah’s music teasingly taunts Bellah with empty promises and apologies, ‘and I’ve been selling you dreams/ Apologies I ain’t mean it’, as well as mocking Bellah for being too weak to resist its allure, ‘subconsciously prey on the weak, see’. Bellah’s music thought she needed it to be restored, determining that it had the upper hand, only to be unexpectedly roped into a symbiotic relationship, ‘thought you needed some healing/ Now I’m here in my feelings’.
Bellah might need her music, but her music has wisened up to the reality that, should Bellah ever turn her back on it, it cannot be realised without her, ‘Set myself up for the worst/ ‘Cos if you ever leave me/ Leave me/ I lose my purpose if you don’t need me’. I’m not crazy for co-dependency, but the blossoming bond between Bellah and her music can only be characterised as meaning great things for the UK R&B scene. Scratch that. The international R&B scene.