You may be sitting with a friend who you cherish, laughing your asses off, or cuddling with a lover, or, if you’re Anna Wise, singing your soul out on stage, and you can want the moment to last forever. We’ve all wanted to take that sensation of heart-pounding happiness, the freedom of time standing still, and bottle it up. But one of the first lessons we learn as children is that the moments of joy we try and encase invariably dissolve in their bottles. It can take time to learn that pain, too, slips away, even when the experience of it feels like an eternity. Anna Wise’s debut album As If It Were Forever is about accepting this duality. “When I think about my relationships with others, or my relationship with myself, I may think I’m going to feel a certain way forever. But really I only exist in that space until the next time my center of gravity shifts. It is a form of self- soothing to pretend something will last forever. I know that my perception will change over time. The only constant is change. This is how the album begins and ends.” As If It Were Forever is a beckoning, an incantation, to not judge your suffering or your joy, to fully exist in each moment, for as long as it lasts.Anna was always enraptured by the poetry of language and vocalizing emotion. She was born into a family of musicians and started singing in church at four years old. “It was always a meditation, a channeling. I was a sensitive kid (and I’m a sensitive adult). I was feeling myself and everyone else’s energy, and not yet having boundaries. The noise in my head only disappeared when I sang. I was giving myself sound therapy with a simple hum. This got me singing for hours a day. It felt special, like a gift I could give myself.”
At music school, Anna felt lost and stifled as an artist until she met producer and engineer, Dane Orr. They spent every waking hour in their makeshift studio recording their debut album as the band, Sonnymoon. An experimental, R&B, bedroom pop outfit, Sonnymoon was an early obsession of the college music blogosphere, and a fixture of the golden era of experimental music in the late 2000s. It didn’t feel strange when a young rapper from Compton, California reached out after hearing a Sonnymoon track and asked if Anna wanted to come sing on his debut album.
“I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again...” The first time most of America heard Anna’s hypnotic vocals they were interlaced with another soon to be infamous voice in music. “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” poured out of every car window, bed room, college dorm, every clothing store and record shop that winter in 2012 and the rest, as they say, is history. So what do you do after you’ve helped make history? You make more of it. On the follow up, To Pimp a Butterfly, Anna won a GRAMMY for Best Rap/Sung Performance for her collaboration on “These Walls”. Her tenure with Kendrick Lamar is sacred, having appeared on each of his projects since Good Kid M.A.A.D City.
Moving from Sonnymoon’s DIY recording aesthetic (Shure SM58 microphone, no pre- amps, a retrofitted dorm room) to a studio with all the bells and whistles and some of the
biggest up and coming producers in hip hop taught Anna the vocabulary and technique necessary to engineer her own vocals. It wasn’t until Anna became a producer, that she was ready to fully realize her ambitions as a solo artist. In 2016 Anna independently released The Feminine: Act 1, her first EP. Anthemic and confrontational, Act 1 took on some of the most ubiquitous topics of the 21st century in poetically relatable pop packaging. Pitchfork noted “a tongue-in-cheek air of brilliance” in her lyricism and songs like “BitchSlut” went viral. To date “Precious Possession” has 3 million streams and scored an unforgettable moment on Netflix’s Dear White People. Anna’s second EP, The Feminine: Act 2 came out in 2017 and has been featured on Beats1 multiple times. “Some Mistakes” was hand picked by Sir Elton John. Shows on Netflix, HBO and OWN have utilized Anna’s contemporary sound. The Feminine is unapologetic in how it deals with its subject matter. It was timely, catchy, and just the beginning...
“With the EP’s I was holding a mirror up to the world to try and reflect how we’ve been conditioned. With As If It Were Forever I’ve turned the mirror around on myself. I’m analyzing my identity, my interactions, my healing. I’m seeing where I fall short, where I’m more talk than action, and I’m focusing on loving myself instead of trying to be lovable.” Additionally, with this album, Anna went back to her roots as a collaborator. As If It Were Forever includes tracks with Little Simz, Jon Bap, Nick Hakim, Denzel Curry, Gwen Bunn, Mndsgn, Carter Lang, Jake Sherman, Pink Siifu, Sid Sriram, Jonathan Ellington, Simon Mavin, Paul Bender, Zeke Mishanec, and Dane Orr.
In the dreamy single “What’s Up With You?” Anna’s voice languishes over a hypnotic beat with pillow talk sincerity, pleading for honesty and reciprocity in the most intimate of human connection. Irreverent and hopeful, organic and spontaneous, “Nerve” was created in a single evening, recorded live, and the result is a kinetic ode to spring cleaning your relationships. Rounding out the singles, “Abracadabra” is a lament on the fleeting nature of outer validation. Produced by Gwen Bunn and Dane Orr, “Abracadabra” features an effortlessly prophetic verse by Little Simz. “All I told her about the song was ‘words are spells’, she digested that, went away and wrote a verse so magically in sync...”
Anna dances between a radical authenticity in her music and the façade of storytelling, sometimes lullaby, sometimes fable, sometimes confession. She adopts different voices for different characters, hiding in plain sight behind the sonic dualities of crisp--fragile, raw--adorned, exposed--prideful. A lot of people make music from the heart, but with Anna, the level of control and ability is overwhelming. Her vulnerability is not accidental, and it is therefore, also, a confrontation. With As If It Were Forever, Anna invites you to live in the moment with the music for as long as it lasts.
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