K. Michelle Caps Off 2013 With EP, Looks Ahead to New TV Show & Musical
By Paul de Revere
As the hook of her breakout single “V.S.O.P.” goes, 2013 has been “very special” for R&B singer K. Michelle.
Particularly with the release of her debut, Rebellious Soul, the Love & Hip Hop star broke orbit from the VH1 reality show that boosted her notoriety as a no-muss, no-fuss personality. So much so that she’s inspired her own forthcoming spin-off, No New Friends.
“That show is about my progression as businesswoman, as a brand,” she said, acknowledging her rise as a solo artist this year.
One listen to Rebellious Soul — which debuted at the top spot of Billboard’s R&B Albums chart and at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in August — reinforces that sassy, salt-of-the-earth brand. More importantly, what grounds it into something substantial is her #RebelAgainst campaign, an awareness-raising social media initiative in which K. Michelle’s fans speak out against domestic violence, racism, sexism and other social problems as well as personal life issues.
“You can be a rebel without a cause,” Michelle said, referring to her fiery, scorned R&B songs. “I wanted to be a rebel with a cause.”
With that cause and her music, Michelle seems to be doing everything she can to shake herself free from the box of trumped-up, reality TV drama. And with her accomplishments in 2013 and her plans for 2014 so far, it seems to be working. Last month, K. Michelle won Best New Artist at the Soul Train Awards, a nod from one part of the music industry that thinks of her as more than a reality star. Moreover, Michelle is “working on a musical with more details to come soon,” her label, Atlantic Records, confirms to Radio.com.
Lately, R&B has heralded eccentric sounds from new talent (Janelle Monae, Frank Ocean, Miguel) and continuing legacies (R. Kelly, anyone with the last name Braxton). But K. Michelle has stepped out — deflecting haters and questions about her Love and Hip Hop-documented personal life — on her own path, with an approach in R&B reminiscent of Mary J. Blige or “Hit ‘Em Up Style” singer Blu Cantrell: a woman scorned, trying to rise above it all.
On Rebellious Soul, you can hear that she’s trying to get her drama in order but, girl, she needs a drink — “some Henny chillin’ on ice,” she sings on “V.S.O.P.” (a French designation for cognac or brandy: Very Special Old Pale) — and she’s not gonna take mess from nobody anymore.
“It’s a soulful record, it’s urgent to today and it still gives you that old-school feel,” Michelle said, describing not just “V.S.O.P.” but encapsulating the whole album.
On the title track of her new holiday-music EP Christmas Night, all that sass melts away like a Southern snow storm. Michelle gets sentimental, even tearful.
“I wanted to do something cute, something fun for the holidays,” Michelle said.
The EP ends out quite a year for K. Michelle, who headlined a tour with Radio.com New Music to Know Artist Sevyn Streeter. And still, the release amounts to a quick breather among a busy schedule. Michelle is doing live dates through the end of the year and her second single off Rebellious Soul — the rousing “Can’t Raise a Man” — is set for release soon. It’s sure to make her 2014 “very special” as well.