Last week (Feb. 11), I witnessed the love of my life grace the McGuire Theater stage at the State University of New York Old Westbury. As I underwent phases of excitement, anxiety, and utter awe, I attempted to maintain my composure. Just a few steps away from me stood the gifted and soulful Elle Varner. She is the songwriter who produced her album debut Perfectly Imperfect; a lyrical blessing to my soul-deprived ears back in 2012. She was then and is now a refreshing piece of art.
Yet, there she stood at my small school, in a small theater, doing a small show. Why?
She invited an intimacy in the room that I never experienced with someone I admired so greatly. “Let’s be real” she repeated as she cozied herself on her stool and swaddled her guitar to her bosom. She hasn’t put out an album since her debut and hasn’t had a real radio hit since “Refill” or “Only Wanna Give it to You” – four years ago. She is by no means a successful industry artist. But why?
Although she so vulnerably admitted that she was struggling, she put on a jaw dropping show. All of her biggest fans in the room vibed with her. And who ever didn’t know much about her soon found themselves humming her lyrics and reveling in the bouncy structure of her vibrant voice. So while I’m grateful to have experienced it, her performance at my school produced a heartbreaking revelation.
My love. My Elle Varner. My talented sister from L.A is evidently an underrated R&B singer. Whether that is because she isn’t a pop artist or if it is related to industry politics, one thing is for sure: her art is not the issue.
I remember when I first heard some of the tracks off of Perfectly Imperfect. I was overwhelmed by the rich selection of real R&B. It sounded musical; fresh and so cleverly composed. Other than “Refill,” a track that metaphorically compared infatuation to intoxication, Elle wrote several songs that showcase her lyrical talents. Songs like “Not Tonight” and “So Fly” provide perspective and offer us her vulnerability. Even now, I find that there is an overflow of artists who “front,” who aren’t particularly raw with their “radio-hit” songs.
Elle is refreshing because she gives us her all, just as she gave her all to the Old Wes student body last Thursday night.
Though she might be going through a rough patch now, falling in love with her music was probably the most magical and exciting thing I did four years ago. And if you haven’t tuned into her, then you’re truly missing out.