sat 26/09/2020

Colors performance stream on YouTube review - vocalists on lockdown | reviews, news & interviews

Colors performance stream on YouTube review - vocalists on lockdown

Colors performance stream on YouTube review - vocalists on lockdown

The normally slickly branded music channel adapts to circumstances with surprising effect

'The simplicity of the format focuses everything on just the performance and the vocal'Jaz Karis on Colors

The Colors studio in Berlin has quietly created one of the biggest new brands in music from filming back-to-basics performances with laser-focused branding. From international megastars (Billie Eilish, Mac DeMarco) to up-and-comers, singers and occasionally rappers are filmed alone in a simple cube-shaped stage with distinctive colour-cycling lighting.

The Colors studio in Berlin has quietly created one of the biggest new brands in music from filming back-to-basics performances with laser-focused branding. From international megastars (Billie Eilish, Mac DeMarco) to up-and-comers, singers and occasionally rappers are filmed alone in a simple cube-shaped stage with distinctive colour-cycling lighting. In one sense, it's an incredibly slick marketing operation: for all the international diversity of the performer, they're photogenic one and all, and the consistency of the visuals gives an eerie, slightly cult-like air to things.

But at the same time it's democratising: the simplicity of the format focuses everything on just the performance and the vocal, and that can really showcase talent. Unsigned Southeast London soul man Joel Culpepper has now clocked up 10 million views for his notably shirtless, but also vocally devastating late 2017 performance, for example, and plenty of others have managed to use the platform as a springboard to big global audiences.

Girl Ultra performing in Mexico All of which is why Colors's part in the huge global experiment into our watching and listening habits that is the lockdown is particularly fascinating. With musicians unable to travel to any studios, let alone tastefully lit ones, their new broadcasts are entirely home recorded. Each evening (7pm BST), they're showing new performances sent to them by vocalists, followed by a cycle of all the previous lockdown performances. In this format, all the carefully constructed visually branding is stripped away, and we're left with the democratising part. And it's fantastic.

There are a wide range of approaches from the artists. Some are very professional: Poppy Ajudha, for example, performs her smoky jazz-blues from a keyboard-packed home studio with what one must hope for lockdown compliance reasons is her cohabitee on piano, with two separate cameras, and oilwheel lighting to boot. Mariana de Miguel aka Girl Ultra (pictured above) performs her equally earnest and passionate set from Mexico City with guitarist in tow in front of a stage curtain and with a professional microphone; the electric-guitar-only backing brings out the psyche-rock undertones in her normally funky R&B. Cape Verdean sensation Mayra Andrade performs one of the highlights of the broadcasts outdoors on a clearly sultry night in Ghana framed and filmed with professional looking slickness, also with a guitarist, sitting slightly less than the advised two metres from her.

Big Zuu at homeBut it's the more lo-fi recordings where this format really comes to life. West London grime MC Big Zuu (pictured left), always one of the most technically gifted rappers on the UK scene, thrives on what looks like a phone video. He balances ridiculous syllable-juggling prowess with a natural musicality, including a subtly melodic turn at one point, and with no big production to hide behind it's doubly impressive. Young neo-soul singer Jaz Karis sings on her bed, holding a mug, her voice roughly reverbed, with just her laptop for backing: it could be a teenager goofing off for her mates on Zoom if her vocal wasn't so casually devastating, including on a surprise rendition of “At Last” via Etta James. She in particular makes the stream feel like an anti-X Factor: it's everything that people want from talent shows in terms of regular people singing their hearts out, but without any of the faked jeopardy and other histrionics.

Bad With Phones at homeOne of the most gripping performances is another Londoner, Bad With Phones (pictured right), strumming his guitar into what appears to be a pretty basic webcam, and glugging cornershop white wine from the bottle. His laconically morose style, which is engaging with beats on his few released tracks, is totally captivating in the raw, and his unique persona shines through despite – or very possibly because of – the lack of technology and branding framing him. But it's not just one performance that shines in the enforced low-tech situation: taken all together, the varying degrees of make-do-and-mend approaches really bring home how genuinely diverse these young artists are. Not “diverse” in the marketing speak, box-ticking way either, but diverse as personalities and showing a hugely fertile international creative scene at work. It's heartening viewing, and there are a lot more, as yet unannounced, performers to come yet.

@joemuggs

The varying degrees of make-do-and-mend approaches really bring home how genuinely diverse these young artists are

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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