V V Brown is back – and eight years since the release of her third and most-recent album, ‘Glitch’ (2015), she’s entering a whole new music business.
Launching into the charts in 2009 with her breakthrough hit, Shark In The Water, the singer-songwriter started out on Island Records before releasing her second and third albums independently via her YoY label.
For ‘Black British’ – her latest project, encompassing music along with essays and journalistic pieces – she’s teamed up with Virgin Records under her imprint and, reflecting on the shift in attitudes from major labels, V V admits plenty has changed.
“I never ever thought that I would ever go back to a major,” she smiles in RETROPOP’s June 2023 issue. “So it’s my label partnered with Virgin Music under Universal, and it’s a really nice feeling to be partnered with a major that is encouraging it and understanding the direction.”
She adds: “The industry has changed so much from when I left; it’s a whole different universe now and it’s really refreshing to see how artists are having more of a creative voice. I love it. I think it’s great how bold artists are being and how independent and powerful they are.
“Like RAYE, for instance – I just think she’s awesome for the way that she’s navigated through her career, even though she’d had a hard time. There’s so much power in the hands of artists now.”
It’s a development that led to a more diverse generation of up-and-coming artists rising through the pop ranks, but there are still issues with the representation of Black artists in the music industry today.
“If you look statistically at the shelf life of Black artists through time in this country, you will find that there’s one every year that they hail. One comes in, one comes out. One comes in, one comes out. It’s Corinne Bailey Rae, then it’s me, then it’s Laura Mvula, then it’s Cat Burns,” she says.
“There’s a sense of a tokenistic hailing of one Black female artist, because you look around to your white counterparts in the UK and there’ll be many of them. But that’s changing now as well, which is great.”
It’s a subject V V tackles on her latest project, featuring the lead single and title track, which was conceived during the Covid-19 pandemic and on the back of the Black Lives Matter movement, which compelled the musician to revisit the ideas she’d floated four years prior and get back on track with new material.
“It really affected me and what I wanted to do as an artist, because I really didn’t want to compromise anymore; I really wanted to show my real true, authentic side that a lot of the time was hidden in major labels, where you couldn’t say those things because it was all about selling records and not upsetting people,” she reflects. “I’m such a huge fan of pop music – even though this record isn’t necessarily pop – and I love when you can find intelligent ways to communicate things through pop.
“I tried to do that with songs like Crying Blood or Everybody or The Apple. If you listen to my lyrics, they’re always kind of political. But I got to a point in my life where I was like, ‘I don’t want to have to put these subtle political messages in my music. I’m just gonna just let it all come out’. It feels really authentic.”
The single Black British is out now. The full project is due later this year. V V Brown will play live at The Lower Third, London on May 23, with tickets on sale now.
Read the full interview in the June 2023 edition of RETROPOP, out now. Order yours or subscribe via our Online Store, use our Store Finder to locate your nearest stockist, or get Digital Copies delivered direct to your devices.