Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Grant Johnson at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
It's a line that Cee Lo Green sings in a guest appearance on Selah Sue's self-titled US debut that provides the linchpin for the Belgian singer's aesthetic and her stance on pretty much all things. He sings, "I'm tired, so tired of chasing the dream/With tears in my eyes, I realize that it's running away," and it's as if he's inadvertently put a franking mark on the collective of these 12 songs, as a whole. Sue sings in a way that we've come to appreciate as the standard take on neo-soul over the last handful of years - not short on the smoky Amy Winehouse vibe and even some of the bold and booming pieces of Adele's arsenal - but she's interested in the various ways that the general world, or the societies that are its makeup, are behaving toward her and others, not soggy love stories filled with ice cream recovery and the need to put the pieces back together to get on with life.
She suggests, "This world ain't real simple," and goes on to give plenty of examples of just what she means. It's a world that she finds unforgiving in its hardened state. She also tends to see most people as stuck in their own ways, a style that they've nurtured, that they're unable or unwilling to renovate. Some people are just more willing to suffer through the wounds and the grumblings, the perception of everyone and everything being out to get them, as if they were some sort of roustabout pawn.
When Green sings about the weariness of chasing after "the dream," this is the universal feeling that anyone can identify with. It's that dream that is sometimes hard to describe. It's often not even thought of as a dream, but that's all it is - that badgering sensation that you've not lived up to what was meant for you or what you felt should have been coming your way. It should be enough to just send out your love and have it all come back to you ten-fold. It should be enough to put the hustle in and see the results come back to you. It should be enough to find that there's some kind of reward for intention, some reciprocal kindness that just kicks in at a certain point. Sue reminds us that there's a fat chance of that ever happening, but we're stuck here.