The Art Of Conversation – A Lyric Review: Clarity Is Communion, And The Key to Bellah’s High Res RNB
By Corey Anthony Tucker
To conversate can be to clarify. That is to say, conversation is one of our most immediate means of understanding one another. Anyone can talk. Talk out of turn, talk over someone, talk as if their side is the only one of significance. Feigning to listen, only to spew your point of view the second the second party has finished talking. Not as a response resulting from active listening and acknowledgement, but a need to blurt out your original point before it gets away from you.
Conversation is artful in that there’s more than one right way of having one. There’s much debate about how one cultivates good conversation. The only tried and true tenet of how to go about it is to really digest the sentiments expressed by the other party. Only then can a worthwhile response be given, because the basis of any good conversation is in one’s ability to adapt their point of view to encompass that of another, so as to better understand the other party in the process.
‘You don’t understand but I want you to get it’ – Bellah, Supernova (2020). Conversations aren’t a guaranteed beeline to mutual understanding. They can be fraught with projections and deflections that scramble the signal of an intended message. Knowing this, Bellah devotes herself to demonstration, and through her words and actions, dissolves any doubt her people might have about how deeply she loves them. How deeply they affect her. To receive others and to be received in high resolution is Bellah’s ultimate intention and the thematic through-line of her latest EP. Bellah and The Art of Conversation are at once, lucid, fragrant and flourishing.
The Art of Conversation begins with the dulcet melodies of Home. Opening with the hook, the pitching up of Bellah’s vocals feels intentionally reminiscent of T2’s Heartbroken, similarly evoking a pang of warmth that’ll situate you squarely in your feelings. Featuring production as malleable as Bellah’s vocal range, Home’s sonic and lyrical DNA has more traits in common with a deep cut than a bop. This deftly constructed ratio is why Home will have Bellah’s listeners sanging with their souls, reaching out for unconditional love and throwing some ass simultaneously.
Here, Bellah breaks the silence associated with not wanting to assign too much meaning to a burgeoning romance too soon, ‘never say much, but I got a question/ When you see me do you see a blessing?’. Bellah refuses to stake her care in someone whose words and actions offer conflicting accounts of his apparent affection for her, ‘can’t be the only one that’s invested/ ‘Cus what you say don’t match your expressions’. Leaving no room for misinterpretation, Bellah gives the green light for an open discussion of their relationship status, leaving the proverbial door ajar for him, ‘so if you’re down, let me know and we can build something’. Should he choose to enter, Bellah will be a beacon of unconditional love for him, ‘In me you’ll always find a home/ I’ll never turn my back on you’.
On the haunting skitter of Half Of Me the declining tactility of her ex’s embrace alerts Bellah to his emotional withdrawal, ‘something’s different/ ’Cause you ain’t holding me like you used to’. Bellah initially apportions blame to herself for her ex’s newfound fickleness, ‘inconsistency’s got me/ Got me questioning myself’. But, when realising her ex passively withdrew from her so he wouldn’t have to officially rescind their relationship, she reassigns the blame to him, where it rightly belongs, ‘don’t go running off on me/ You made a deal, you made a promise’.
Just as the “crazy” sets in, Bellah subverts the notion that she’s a ‘if I can’t have him, no-one can’ kind of girl with a serrated insight. If there was any merit in her ex’s manhood, he would’ve directly communicated his wish to end their arrangement, ‘if you’re a big man say it with your chest’. If her ex wasn’t so afraid of imagined pushback, he’d have discovered that Bellah’s response to his ending things would’ve been to part ways with him and keep it moving, ‘would’ve gave you permission/ Cut you off and let you go’. Even when her ex thinks he’s moved on, Bellah’s love looms large, and his new love can’t measure up, ‘you won’t find what you need/ ’Cause she ain’t even half of me’.
Bellah showcases her pop sensibility on the breathy, bubblegum trap of Something U Like. She impresses with some incisive turn of phrase, erecting emotional boundaries between herself and her fling to discourage him from believing their romp can morph into anything romantic, ‘baby it’s static, not electricity […] Heart on my sleeve so my wrist stay frozen/ Only hit him up when I’m tryna lose focus’.
Our Neighbourhood RNB Babe strikes again with the bump in the trunk of If I Were U. A best friend bop for her sistren. Here, Bellah inflects her razor sharp RNB with airtight turns of phrase that speaks to our desperation as men (and therefore, trash) to be recycled by women that struggle to realise they could do better, ‘same shit this time last year/ Same nigga, my time, your tears’.
Bass guitar and drums commingle on the conversational charge of Cause U Can. On the surface, this track depicts a domineering lover trying and failing to void Bellah’s autonomy. Bellah posits herself in stark opposition to these attempts at control by choosing the opposing direction, or action, of what her lover instructs her to do, ‘just because you say so/ I won’t do it ‘cause you say/ If you tell me hold on, I’ll let go’. Her lover endeavours to assume authority over her, and thereby, humble her into submission, and in resisting this notion, Bellah learns the importance of uplifting herself, ‘I got problems with authority/ Tryna keep me grounded, fuck gravity’.
She finds herself making a plea with her lover to recognise and desist with the pain he so carelessly and intentionally inflicts on her, ‘just because you could, don’t mean that you should […] Why can’t you understand? You can’t hurt me ’cause you can’. The subtext of Cause U Can — Bellah’s struggles with having Sickle Cell Anemia — introduce an entirely new dimension of the song. Recognising the discord that chases after her pursuits because of Sickle Cell, Bellah opts for them to develop a more harmonious relationship, so that she can pursue her dreams with as little interruption as possible, ‘you better work work like night and day’.
Learning to accept her Sickle Cell doesn’t change it’s status as a condition that is destructive in nature, ‘you’re so used to it, ruin and go’. As such, Bellah could never and shouldn’t be expected to learn to love her Sickle Cell, nor accredit it for the accomplishments she has made in her own name, ‘what’s mine is mine, it’s not ours/ I’m not sharing a thing’. She might personify Sickle Cell for the sake of the track, but Bellah has long wizened up to the reality that she can’t assume total control over the uncontrollable, ‘body weak, but my head strong’. Sickle Cell is a condition, a conditional part of Bellah, and so she won’t allow it to encroach on the parts of her life that bring her elation, ‘hate it when I say no, you get no sympathy’.
On the neo soul affected grooves of Big Dreams Empty Pockets Bellah expounds on the trials and tribulations of being an independent artist. Here, Bellah contends with the disheartening concept that she’ll need to do more than give her all to be considered a main stay in the music industry, ‘blood, sweat and tears ain’t enough for them, darling’. The EP’s current of vulnerability deepens here, as Bellah admits to fearing that her relentless devotion to and care for her craft, ‘all my nights are days, look for the sign that says 24 hours,’ threatens to compromise her capacity to deliver artistically, ‘just take me where, I ain’t gotta care/ Cause I can’t afford that either’. If ever there was an anthem for aspiring creatives, this is it.
The Art of Conversation is bookended with a love so unconditional, so lofty, that Bellah, alongside her partner, is able to soar the starry sky atop it; painting a baroque vision of true love on transcendent neo-soul ballad Supernova. Here, Bellah has found a love that she can engage with, an experience between herself and her partner that is so grounded in reality, that they can reach out and touch it, ‘right out the frame/ Picture of love’. Given that Bellah sang of needing a love that is based in reality rather than aesthetic appeal on EP opener Home, ‘I need someone who’s real, don’t need someone who’s perfect’; the opening lyric of Supernova serves as a wonderful framing device, as well as a divinely executed pay off. Bellah’s paramour exceeds her expectations of love, fulfilling her in ways she hadn’t anticipated, ‘you’re better than, more than enough’.
Much like God, Bellah’s paramour loves unconditionally, and, humble to his core, doesn’t credit himself for how profoundly he impacts those around him, ‘God but you never/ Give yourself credit’. Knowing that he doesn’t seek credit because his altruism is genuine, Bellah strives to show him the depth of his impact on her, ‘you don’t understand but I want you to get it’. She achieves this by depicting his goodness as outshining the sweeping radiance of the sun’s rays, ‘and the lights don’t seem to shine as bright as you do […] the sun shines extra hard impressing you’. Bellah proclaims that her true love bears a quality so cosmic, that the stars require his permission to grant the wishes of the general public, ‘whenever the stars are making wishes are they waiting on you?’. She is so sure of the connection they share, so sure that the reward outweighs the risk, that she gambles her love on him in its entirety, ‘I’m putting my bets on you, what’s fire to a supernova?’
To Bellah, loving someone should invite constructive challenge, so that both she and her love might assume a better version of themselves, ‘you know the pressure, it takes to make diamonds and pearls, so don’t let up’. She wants her love to embrace his golden quality, so that he may come alive in the reality that a great deal of his value is because of his “impurities”, not in spite of them, ‘gold but you always, try to repress it’. The true marvel of this boundless ballad, is that its source wasn’t derived from a man, but the original, and arguably only, source of unconditional love, her mother, ‘you’re more than a man, and I want you to get it’. By taking stock of and celebrating the love in her life, Bellah has opened up a greater body of love inside of herself and her listeners.