Every once in a while, you experience an artist that breathes life back into you. Whose craft seems necessary to your well-being. A reminder of how important art is to human life.
This year, Rachel Chinouriri has done that for me.
Rachel Chinouriri is a 23 year old London based indie singer-songwriter. Her sound, the fitting soundtrack for reflection and identity formation deals heavily with the melancholy of heartbreak and sadness. Nonetheless, Chinouriri is cheerful, bringing softness and warmth to the music she creates and this openness has played a part in her success.
A self-described ‘internet kid', her online presence on Tiktok particularly, has led to the virality of her tracks, including So My Darling and All I Ever Asked. This year, she has achieved a Colors performance and Apple Music home session, as well as her own tour across the U.K, while also supporting artists from Tems and Sam Fender to Remi Wolf.
Her most recent EP, ‘Better Off Without’, goes through the motions of heartbreak. Her soft coos speak of lost love and the wave of emotions that come with knowing it’s the end, and it has been for a while. Leading track, All I Ever Asked calls for expression and movement.
Her closing song at her London tour, Happy Ending, called for celebration as she danced off the stage. I sat in the audience - despite the range of emotions from performed tracks such as Give Me A Reason and Fall Right Out of Love - thinking and feeling, this is fun!
There’s a way about Rachel Chinouriri, not only in the way her music makes you feel less alone, but in the way she makes you feel excited about living. For me, Chinouriri’s music and performance restored my excitement for working in the arts.
In all her successes, Chinouriri has been insistent and strong in her stance as an indie artist. More specifically she reiterates how she traverses the boundaries of alternative, indie and pop. Listening to her music, it’s not hard at all to attribute her sound as belonging in these spaces and yet there are those that insist she belongs in every genre, but Chinouriri has shut down claims that she is an RnB, soul, neo-soul and even a jazz artist. And she’s been right at every turn because she isn’t.
Earlier this year, Billie Eilish was credited for creating and popularising ‘sad girl pop’ by The Recording Academy. Many were quick to counter the erasure of artists before Eilish with a noticeable impact and a far spanning catalogue beyond merely being a gen z ‘mascot for a generation of young Americans who are, according to studies, extraordinarily sad’.
Ironically, Eilish herself has never described herself or claimed this titled in any way. So why not listen to the artist making the music themselves?
Similarly, listening and experiencing Chinouriri is testament to her self-awareness. She is very much a pop girlie. All I Ever Asked reflects on a friend’s breakup mirroring Chinouriri’s feelings of a similar situation. Its success lies heavily in the fact she doesn’t try to make the song fit into a genre it isn’t meant to be in. Heartbreak, the theme of her most recent EP, resonates so widely not only in its relatability but in its sound. As a Black artist, specifically a Black British woman, Chinouriri is carving a space for herself by simply making the music she wants to make despite attempts to gatekeep the genre.
Chinouriri is here to stay in the indie pop sphere.
It’s important to note the factors at play here. First, Chinouriri sits within genres that have been and continue to be typically considered as white. Supposed ‘white’ genres are never truly white and have a large following of listeners that reflect this.
Black artists at the start of their careers and later in their prime have been involved in these spaces for a very long time. In fact, Black artists that have successfully shifted to the mainstream are for the most part, placed under the banners of everything else as ‘urban’ and don’t actually sit fully in those genres at all.
Rachel Chinouriri is also a U.K. homegrown artist. Every once in a while there’s a conversation about the way U.K. art and creativity is delivered and perceived. Be it with actors who end up making it big in the States, or music artists who are underappreciated until their crossover to an American audience. Across the waters, there’s a far reaching expanse of who an artist is allowed to be, who they have access to and the ways they’re allowed to experiment - take Willow for example.
It seems like there’s a pushback against art that claims any title that’s different from an expected norm. Nonetheless, the non-white following of these genres cannot be erased or downplayed.
The mislabelling it seems, comes from largely white demographics, placing anything Black under distinct categories of urban. Which then brings us to the obvious; Rachel Chinouriri is a Black woman. And as Black woman, it’s easier to assume and pigeonhole her as an artist that does anything but alternative indie pop. Not only do words mean things, genres have foundations and histories. There is nothing about Chinouriri’s music that hints at her making any other music but the music she makes.
Chinouriri has also largely surrounded herself with artists of this similar genre. Etta Marcus who has supported Chinouriri on her tour, as well as Toni Sancho are a testament to the music she makes and the space she’s carving out.
You can experience this yourself, catch Rachel Chinouriri next as she opens for Kojey Radical in November.