The following is a guest review written S. Amanda Clevinger.
Several months before A Million And One by My Brightest Diamond was officially released, on my 34th birthday, Shara Nova told the crowd, “Lift up your champagne glasses, you know, your fake ones, and make a toast to the birthday girl!” with a bright smile directed at me. The mood was jubilant and intense; it was the first time I had heard “Champagne” or any of the other songs on her upcoming album, and I was hooked. And not just because I had a song dedicated to me.
A Million And One is so thoroughly a My Brightest Diamond album, but it’s different. Its technopop bangers have a distinct Detroit vibe. The more subdued “Another Chance” is so soulful, sweet, and captivating that you can imagine it being written and recorded in the Motown studios. On the other end, “You Wanna See My Teeth” is like a physical push in the chest, daring you to f*** with all five feet of Miss Nova.
Ultimately, this is mostly an incredibly introspective breakup album about rising up from the bottom, but it doesn’t give into any of the pitfalls of self-indulgent sobfests of the typical breakup album. It’s about growing in relationships, not just mourning the end of a romantic one. There’s very little self-pity; it’s about self-empowerment in the face of hurt. In the first track “It’s Me on the Dance Floor,” Nova sings, “I was looking for someone who might see me / And I might see too / Maybe that is you / Maybe it’s me / It’s me I’m looking for.” From the beginning, the message is I’m going to find myself, pull myself up, be the star I know I can be. It’s distinctly feminist and relatable and, like all of My Brightest Diamond’s music, beautifully executed.
Shara’s operatic voice is used like a weapon more than ever in nearly every song on this album. She spits like a machine gun, she war cries, she coos, she serenades, she screams. Her voice isn’t just an instrument, it’s many instruments, used in so many ways that even 25 listens in, I’m still hearing new nuances. Her voice is one of the most unique in music today, and somehow she made it even more unique, losing all pretense of needing it to be traditionally beautiful, yet it is still breathtaking.
I think it’s important to note the album closes with “White Noise,” a song about “breaking up the white noise” — basically white privilege. Hearing it live for the first time, in a majority white crowd in the South, I saw some odd glances exchanged during this song. It seemed people couldn’t decide if it was a metaphor or not. Look, white folks, it’s not a metaphor. “I feel so sensitive and white, white / My position might have to be shifted by a break / And I’m counting up all of these benefits / It’s nothing but white noise” and “If you wanna get rich (White noise) / Get hip to the white noise / And if you get rich quick and hip, hip / You can be rich, rich” isn’t veiled at all. It’s refreshing to see feminism be intersectional. And she’s right: we ain’t mad, mad enough.
I have been a My Brightest Diamond fan since her first album. I was blown away into another universe when I saw her open for Sufjan Stevens, only recognizing her as one of the Illinoisemakers. I have never been disappointed by one of her releases. I’ve seen her perform with nothing but a celesta and a kalimba, and it was one of the most beautiful performances I have witnessed. I simply love Shara Nova. I feel confident A Million And One is my favorite My Brightest Diamond album, and that’s not just because I got a “Champagne” toast on my birthday.
© 2019 S. Amanda Clevinger. All rights reserved. Find her other work here.