London-born-Indian heritage Piya Malik, Washington DC-hailed African American Nya Gazelle Brown and Caucasian New Yorker Sabrina Mileo Cunningham might look physically different but as transatlantic operatic-disco trio Say She She they exhibit a common unity. On their second album Silver, following up last year’s ‘Prism’, they express unification in their call-to-arms lyrics, as well as their synchronised sometimes-indistinguishable harmonies.
Say She She’s nostalgic soul and funk has an obvious nod to 1970’s music – the 16 songs on this record spring to mind R&B female collectives The Emotions and The Jackson Sisters and their band name is a tribute to Chic – but what makes them stand apart from other bands that embrace a fascinating with the music of yesteryear is that their harmonies occasionally elevate into an operatic pitch. A result of all three being classically trained vocalists. This style of singing be heard in the chorus to the opening track ‘Reeling’, in the climax of the Zero 7-meets-Minnie Riperton ‘Passing Time’ and in the bridge to the cosmological romance ‘Astral Plane’ (it recalls morning birds in a Disney film) but is most prominent on the strikingly unique ‘Forget Me Not’. Accompanied by chunky funk bass, wah-wah pedal and flute, the three vocalists sing the title with a dramatic yet bordering on humorous undulation that makes a standout track on Silver. This is apt considering the subject matter is about The Guerilla Girls; a New York protest group of incognito female artists that, amongst other methods, fight sexism by spontaneously postering thought-provoking but often comical pieces of art around the city.
Other tracks on Silver also celebrate the need to stand up for rights. The aforementioned wonky-indie track ‘Reeling’ is from the point of view of Mother Earth trying to convince humans to take better care of her: “Break the levies/Join the rising/Say your peace/Shake it all off/Toss the ashes/Kick the door down/Smash the ceiling.” ‘NORMA’ – which features marching trumpets within its Quincy Jones aura – is an impulsive reaction by the group to the 2022 decision by the US Supreme Court (Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization) to allow states to individually decide on their own abortion laws. A punch in the face to Norma McCorvey – after which the song is named – a plaintiff who fought for the freedom of abortion exactly 50 years ago (Roe vs. Wade). Malik, Brown and Cunningham sing: “We will not go/We will not go back/Before it gets too late/Write a letter to the state.” before following up with “Right is now wrong/What is left of left?” to show a sense of confusion.
Furthermore, ‘Echo In The Chamber’ also attacks another ongoing problem in the United States; the vicious cycle debate on gun safety. “Dear Mr. Man have you called in your favours?/Have you no more games to play?/Talk it up, call the shots/Make it stop/What’s going to take?” It sounds as if the group are writing a complaint letter. Say She She don’t just talk the talk they walk the walk, as they have launched a postcard writing campaign to the senators which comes with the song’s vinyl copies. Not only do the lyrics convey the group’s frustration but so does their sighing and how their voices sound increasingly more exhausted as the song progresses.
The addictive and multi-chaptered ‘C’est Si Bon’ and the psychedelic-rock ‘Bleeding Heart’ feature the group singing in non-English languages, which could unite even more fans who are not already hooked by their powerful messages and cultural differences. The latter sounds like Jefferson Airplane performing in the Middle East before the three-minute mark when the language changes to something different. The former features French but even without this it would be an enthrallingly eccentric ride; a tour de force of sparkling funk that is cheeky one moment and hauntingly spiritual the next.
On that track, the American-British band advise: “Tell them what you want! The time will soon be gone. When all is said and done, the world keeps spinning on…” With their choice to record Silver live to tape, in an effort to capture the three-piece’s raw synchronicity, along with the infectious energy and impulsive songwriting, Say She She teaches us lessons on how to live and embrace the then and now.