Ármame: Songs of Love and Loss
By Kabir Sehgal
Lauren Henderson’s riveting Ármame is both personal and profound, soulful and stirring. She renders her music with seasoned and kaleidoscopic textures, drawing upon her mixed ancestry, which is part African American and Caribbean. She demonstrates a rich understanding of her roots by singing in two languages, Spanish and English, about familiar themes of love and loss. We see the world through her eyes and words, and realize that music is indeed our common tongue: her lyrics tug at our hearts, and her beats rumble our bones. Lauren’s music is just exquisite, and Ármame will remind you of the “stay-up-and-listen” quality of enchanting music. I listened to her album til morning: her compositions develop with suspense, and she sings incandescently to light up a whole city block.
Ármame begins with “The Great City,” a bluesy get-up that slips into an ominous minor key. Lauren’s brilliant Spanish lyrics serve as both a welcome and caution to those coming to town. She knows whereof she writes, having lived in New York City and toured in major metropolises. “To Wisdom The Prize” juxtaposes Lauren’s sultry vocals with those of Terri Lyne Carrington, as Joe Saylor from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert illuminates the piece with cymbal splashes. “Love Is a Losing Game” was written by the late Amy Winehouse, and it’s a haunting reminder that love is ultimately a journey of endurance and resilience. Sullivan Fortner provides a warm and mellow accompaniment on the Rhodes. “Let me Love You” is one of Lauren’s favorite standards which she renders anew and afresh, with a sophisticated and building arrangement that many a jazz stalwart will appreciate, especially that sweet and singing saxophone solo of Godwin Louis.
“Tanto Amor” features Lauren as a triple threat: master composer, arranger, and performer. An elegant, Latin-infused melody that features a bass walk-down by Eric Wheeler. This piece has a tantalizing sequence that masterfully brings back the central melody. “This is a desperate, frantic love song that I wrote,” and you can hear heartache and buoyancy in her music. “The Old Country” invokes the animated upbeat of reggae, even reggaetón with a glowing solo by Josh Evans. “Inside a Silent Tear” is a meditation in which we hear the difference between loneliness and solitude. It’s in the latter that we find ourselves, and this track with Nick Tannura’s sparse and well-placed guitar accompaniment, strikes a quiet, calming mood so that you can be taken over by the undulating progression and poignant lyrics. “El Ritmo” is another brilliant composition by Lauren about the excitement one feels at the beginning of a new relationship. Your new lover can do no wrong, and neither can Lauren and her band! “Better Days” is a song of optimism and patience: “Taking my time, everything is fine, I called you by phone, and nobody’s home.” Nevertheless, the vocals are about looking ahead to better days yet to come.
The title track “Ármame” which translates to “Arm Me” is an allusion to the shield (and weaponry) you must take up with love. A vivid and sparkling composition that will have you asking why our partners sometimes fail to protect us, and vice versa. This song ultimately describes human imperfections, and that every relationship can ultimately fade into pain and longing. “Open Your Eyes” strikes a hopeful and upbeat note and “We’re Still Friends” explores the complexities of achieving friendship with a past lover. “Todo Tiene Su Final” is a lively yet furtive ending to the album.
Throughout this production, we hear Lauren writing and singingly brilliantly of the joys of love but also heeding its bittersweet lessons. On this album, we hear the many ways that love makes us feel. Ármame is an engaging and absorbing soundtrack for modern love. Lauren delivers a dazzling, radiant, and luminous performance, which will have you in trance, from opening chords to final stanza. Brava!
Multi-Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner
New York Times bestselling author