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Track Review: ‘Natural Skin Deep’ by Neneh Cherry

A track created to express, not impress.

Diamond Edwards

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Editor’s Note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to review one fresh track from a new album that is being released in October. 

Neneh Cherry is back after a four-year musical hiatus with Broken Politics which is released today. Since her career began in the 80s, the Swedish artist has sung, rapped and occasionally throws on a DJ hat. Cherry always marches to the beat of her own drum.

“Natural Skin Deep” is one of the first tracks released from the new album and after a few listens, the only thing to expect from the remaining tracks is lots of experimentation.

“Natural Skin Deep” opens with police sirens, humming, her signature dancehall horn, UFO waves, and sleigh bells, which finally leads to a steel pan that is the driving rhythm.

After the song’s introduction, I paused the song to wrap my head around the past 10 seconds of sound and decided to take it from the top once again, having a better idea of what to expect. Take two was just the same, an overwhelming blend of eclectic sounds followed by Cherry singing about being her natural herself. “I have an elegy to my realness,” she sings, in simple repetitive lines over a chaotic mix of sounds.

Next, the song breaks into a free jazz motif that hovers, momentarily pleasing the ear, but then returns to the original state of musical madness. “Natural Skin Deep” can be deemed as one of the tracks that’s created to express, not to impress. While this doesn’t provide for easy listening, songs like this serve as reminders that music is not always intended to follow a pattern.

In a recent interview with Consequence of Sound, Cherry said “the time we live in is so much about finding your own voice” and described the album as “a fight against the extinction of free thought and spirit.”

Knowing this, it is safe to say that “Natural Skin Deep” is only a taste of her fight. While the message is empowering, the music is not an easy listen. For this reason, I would approach this track with caution.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Diamond is from Dallas, Texas. She is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University where she earned a double major in English and Performance Studies. In addition to writing, she plays piano and drums, and stays up to date on all hip-hop and R&B music.

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