If you’ve ever watched an episode of Insecure or attended a Janelle Monae performance, you might already be familiar with the sounds of St. Beauty. The Atlanta R&B group consists of Alex Belle and Isis Valentine, two soulful beauties who met while working at a vintage clothing store. The two shared an aesthetic that soon led to a fruitful musical collaboration.
The duo signed to Monae’s label, Wondaland, and released their debut EP, Running to the Sun. The album is packed with standout singles, but it is more notable for its ability to create a cohesive sound throughout, which is rare in this era where singles dominate over the traditional concept of an album. Narrated interludes are interspersed with the songs, adding a personal touch to the experience. On the song “Caught” the duo serves notice that they don’t want no scrubs.
Valentino and Belle hail from Stone Mountain, Georgia, with its monuments to Confederate “heroes.” The song “Stone Mountain” references these beginnings:
“I dont have the time to be wasting / What lies ahead is worth it, I’m patient/ Head up in the clouds while I’m climbing / Won’t let nobody block what I’m chasing.”
The song compellingly grapples with feelings of doubt and vulnerability, as the duo strive to meet all challenges.
“Not Discuss It” is an ode about the frustrations of relationship squabbles: “We can not discuss it / Let’s just argue about it later on / Or we can just continue making love/Until we’re dead and gone,” they sing. Belle and Valentino are not identical, which helps propel their music forward. Valentino brings the funk, while Belle finds unique phrasing to match, building momentum as the album proceeds.
Single “Borders” was used to score the most powerful moment of Insecure’s season: the moment that Issa had to reconcile her own cheating with an ex, leading to a devastating breakup. Despite the heartbreak-heavy subject matter, the mode of Running to the Sun remains warm.
St. Beauty are members of the Wondaland Arts Society collective that includes Monae, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, Deep Cotton, and George 2.0. The group collaborated on a blistering protest song, “Hell You Talmbout,” which criticizes the dramatic number of black Americans who are killed by police and vigilantes.
St. Beauty’s mission is to heal and inspire, and judging by the reaction of concertgoers, their live performances do just that. With musical influences as diverse as Sade, Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, Funkadelic and many more, the duo describe their music as “confetti.” But the music they create is greater than just the sum of their parts and influences. During their live shows, St. Beauty’s harmonies seem to vibrate over the crowd, creating positive energy that flows from song to song. St. Beauty are powerful performers and they create a cloud-like environment while playing their own songs and covering singles such as Prototype by Outkast.
The music industry is seemingly dominated by super-producers who create songs that reflect their own style more than the artists they product. They could use more of the soulful R&B of St. Beauty, whose music is infused with their own passions and their own sound. St. Beauty is on tour this summer with Monae. Don’t miss the chance to see these dynamic beauties.