“There is no future in our frontman / There is no gracefulness to his song / There is no melody in his choir / And I refuse to sing / I refuse to sing along”: you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out to which “frontman” Matthew E. White is referring to with his song “No Future in Our Front Man”.
The long-haired soul guru and manager of Spacebomb Records’s “call for resistance” against “the current political disaster” in the USA appears on the EPs No Future in Our Frontman, of which three volumes have been released that feature the same song by eighteen different artists.
This was right up the Richmond, Virginia-based singer Natalie Prass’s street, who provided her own version of the song. She’s an old school acquaintance of White and they have recorded two albums together. Prass’s 2015 debut record, 1970s pop with a dash of Karen Carpenter, complete with chirping vocals and Disney strings. And this year’s The Future and the Past, on which she succumbs to funk, soul, R&B, and tropicalia.
The story is well-known: Prass saw yet another relationship fail and decided to turn her shattered heart into art. But then Donald Trump was elected and she threw all the songs she had written in the dustbin and started writing new ones in which she vents her anger about the pussy-grabber-in-chief and all the other misogynist men that have ever crossed her path.
“It made me question what it means to be a woman in America, whether any of the things I thought were getting better were actually improving, who I am and what I believe in,” Prass said about her call-to-arms in the wake of the #MeToo movement. “I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that’s what music is all about.”
The funky R&B that she wrote for combative lines like “I wanna say it loud / For all the ones held down / We gotta change the plan / Come on nasty women” is reminiscent of contemporary innovators like Solange and Janelle Monáe, who in turn are connected to people like Janet Jackson and much further back, to Stevie Wonder and The Impressions: musicians who were able to envelop their political fist in a velvet musical glove. “I didn’t think it would do any good if I just sounded pissed off,” Prass says.
We still have a long way to go, but women secured several victories in the recent US midterms, so maybe Natalie Prass can finally start thinking about picking up the pieces of her broken heart.