Internationally acclaimed vocalist Kelli Sae is not new to the limelight. And, she’s not blinded by it, either. As the former lead vocalist for global jazz/funk collectives, Incognito, Count Basic and Defunkt, she has seen the world, worked with world class musicians and learned that at the end of the day, all you have is you. “People’s egos are so huge,” she says, frankly.
Pure is not her first solo effort, but it is her very best. She wrote, arranged and produced every song along with A-list musicians of her own choosing. Without industry interference, she made an album that peels away the layers of her intricate soul. The music and lyrics of Pure are honest and frank. These are songs that point fingers and name names. These songs are the light at the end of the tunnel.
It is a masala of sounds, cultures and influences that informs Kelli Sae’s eclectic musical instincts. Raised with the blood of a Puerto Rican mother, and African American father, and Native American grandparents flowing through her, she says of her childhood soundscape, “It ranged from Spanish classics like Tito Puente and Celia Cruz to Barbara Streisand to James Brown and Motown. Then the Black Rock Coalition (BRC) became a major influence.”
Put all of these instruments, rhythms and beats together and you have a sound that is strictly Kelli Sae. R&B purists will instantly hear the wet sensuality of Minnie Ripperton and the audacious sexuality of Marvin and The Isley Brothers. And one can’t miss the strong dose of electronica and Latin heat sprinkled throughout. It is the unmistakable Kelli Sae vibe that keeps her sound whimsical, fresh and boundless. Who else but a warrior would cover the 1967 Jefferson Airplane psychedelic classic, White Rabbit? “A brown girl doing rock,” that’s who.
Why Rock? Why not? Kelli Sae explains, “I love the raw energy of rock. Rock allows the space for abstract story telling. I want the listener to think about things the way they want to. Rock is not contrived in anyway. I want to tell some other kinds of stories with my music.”
The stories that she is telling are all true. They’ll make you cry, make you mad and make you holla for more. Kelli Sae’s raw emotions cannot be contained because they ooze out like nectar; pure, thick and irresistible. These songs speak the truth about loss, heartbreak, sex, death and above all else: love. Kelli Sae shows us what love does; how it can change us.
Having survived the pain of divorce, losing her beloved mother to cancer, losing a friend to suicide and losing the willingness to continue as a featured singer for someone else ‘s gain; Kelli Sae had to dig deep to find out what she is really made of. She was amazed to find some serendipitous things. First, she survived it all. Second, she fell in love and married her female soulmate. Third, she wrote a collection of songs that will change her life, forever. And they will change yours, too.
“I am very emotional. I feel everyone’s pain around me so deeply.” This is why the songs of Pure are heart-wrenching. You can feel them in your gut. She doesn’t mind you seeing that she is angry sometimes; calling out things that are fake, deceptive and corrupt. Listen to “Mask,” “No Good,” “Son of a Gun” and “Blow Your Head Off.” She rants at a world that is broken on “No Use,” which was written when she was losing her home and the system didn’t seem to care. She shares her pain and regrets on “Daughter Son,” Rest of our Lives,” and “List of Things, where she regrets losing a lover who loved her. Kelli Sae is also shamelessly in touch with her sensual side as she showcases in the bold and funky, “Get Right To it.” She also lets you see her vulnerability on “Nothing but a Fool” and “Come Over.” She’s also thoughtful and empathetic enough to crawl inside the mind of a suicide victim, which is what the stunning song, “Urgency” does. She helps us to understand the unfathomable.
“I wish I could pinpoint where my anger comes from. I often wonder if my mother came back and asked, `did I miss anything?’ I’d have to tell her the world has not gotten any nicer or any better. The world is more interested in Kim Kardashian’s ass instead of the fact that the Rescuer Squad from 9/11 can’t get benefits. There’s so much attention to bullshit and nonsense. You don’t even have to have talent and you are making the news. That pisses me off.”
With grace and fearlessness Kelli Sae combines classical string intros with up-tempo dance tracks. She throws the sounds of the urban landscape over a mid-tempo R&B composition. She lets birds chirp to start up a powerful rock anthem. Utilizing the best musicians around, of course, it’s easy to make songs sound good, but her songs feel good, too. Each of these songs tells a story like no other. It’s the originality of the lyrics and the boundless energy that takes Pure to a new level in the disposable age of shameless imitation. She says, “I want to be the person who determines what my musical lifespan will be.”
If Kelli Sae had only one wish for the world and Pure, it would be for all of us to be free. “I want people to feel liberated in their lives. It takes guts to be who you are. Say what you want about me, but you can never call me a liar or a phony. This is the truth of me and all that I am about.”
And, she only sings of all things Pure.