Hear The Rainbow With A COLORS Show
by Lis Steinberg
Peanut butter and jelly, cheeseburger and fries, chocolate and strawberries — all simple yet delicious combinations. The reason these dynamic food duos work so well can be attributed to many things, yet the most prevalent explanation is that the complementary ingredients highlight rather than overpower each other. These satisfying fusions exist not only in cuisine but in many other avenues, such as art. The artistic equivalent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the music platform COLORS Studio, spawning from the Berlin-based magazine COLORS. The show features musicians from around the world, each week debuting underground artists like Jeshi and Serious Klein as well as more well-known artists like 6LACK and Mac Demarco.
The show’s appeal comes from not only the sound recording quality but the understated visual aesthetic. Artists perform in a bare studio of lit walls with nothing but a microphone and/or instrument of their choice. This minimalist production design provides clarity to focus on the music. The wall is set to a color depending on what the artist chooses will best match the energy of the song. Some artists are quite literal with this decision, such as Tobi Lou singing his new single “Orange” that was released on October 12th. Lou plays in front of a fiery burnt sienna. Animé, too, opted to sing his track “Yellow” in front of a wall that is a radiant sunflower yellow. Although this method is predictable, it’s just as effective as the more metaphorical path that others go down. For an example look no further than Jakob Ogawa’s performance of “Let It Pass,” a song about letting go and moving on from love interests in the past, performed in front of a calming and serene seafoam green. In some rare cases, the artist has been allowed the freedom to choose two colors, like 808INK does as the color switches from mustard to ketchup throughout his song “Jeep Cherokee.”
The representation of color used as a symbol has been around for centuries and exists in many different contexts, from marketing strategies and literature to films, spirituality, and even paranormal/supernatural concepts. According to many new age beliefs, every living or non-living thing has an energetic forcefield that is visible to the human eye called an aura. Psychics are most readily credited for being able to perceive these floating orbs and claim that every color denotes a different meaning, helping to explain a person’s disposition or temperament. For example, a blue aura indicates good communication, a red aura indicates a short temper, etc. COLORS works in the same way, urging the artist to choose a color to accurately depict the nature and emotion of the song.
There are a few artists who master this color dynamic and deliver exceptional performances. Among some of the best is Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy who executes a chilling rendition of his track, “Moments Passed,” showing the world his soul as he recalls a time of vulnerability in a relationship that ended in heartbreak. The gravelly rasp of Kennedy’s voice is so enticing due to the grit of it all. It is clear after hearing him sing live in the COLORS studio that not much processing goes into his studio recorded music. The chiaroscuro of Kennedy up against the dark grey wall that outlines his figure is enough to ring chills down your spine as you are transported into his mind, feeling his inner psyche.
Another outstanding performance is English musician and producer, Tom Misch, recreating Patrick Watson’s “Man Like You.” Misch, having one of the only covers executed on the show, is joined by his electric guitar as well as violinist Tobie Tripp. Typically staying in the alternative R&B lane, Misch takes Watson’s song and slows it down to something even more emotional than the original. He chooses a pale blue to surround the two as they both trail off mid-song into a mesmerizing instrumental segment. Misch rips on the guitar and Tripp later accompanies him with some powerful violin chords. The cover got so much recognition and respect that Misch eventually released a more stylized recording of the track on his album, Geography (2018).
Billie Eilish rakes in 31 million YouTube views with her intimate and deeply introspective COLORS version of “idontwanttobeyouanymore.” Often sized up in the media as being wise beyond her sixteen years, Eilish presents herself with an immense amount of self-assurance which is ironic in this heart-wrenching song about self-deprecation and insecurities. As a viewer, you can quite literally feel Eilish revisiting all the feelings she must have tapped into in order to write the lyrics, as her mind, body, and soul get pulled into the delivery of every word. Her breathy voice is picked up delicately, as she almost whispers to us through the microphone. Eilish also chooses a pastel mint to escort her through the intensity which adds a peaceful element to the performance.
A more upbeat episode showcases law-student-drop-out Kelvyn Colt, one of the earliest guests on the show. He belts his 2017 single “Bury Me Alive” in front of a deep charcoal which underscores the overall fierceness that is Kelvyn Colt. The Berlin rapper exhibits his animated facial expressions as he dances through the track with high energy. Colt’s voice prevails through the heavy beat as the camera pans across the screen from a worm’s eye view, giving the viewer a chance to look up at Colt in awe, as he destroys every lyric with intention and conviction.
Out of all the memorable segments, the one that encapsulates the pure genius that is the COLORS Studio Series is English singer-songwriter Jorja Smith’s decadent performance of her 2018 single “Blue Lights.” Choosing a muted royal blue, Smith graces us with her smooth articulation as she sways back and forth creating an incomparably soothing melody with nothing but her voice. She displays transparency as she tells us a story of injustice and inequality against her young black friends in regards to police brutality. It is apparent that Smith holds this song near and dear as she carefully unravels each lyric with her sultry vocals as she seeks solace from the troubles of her mind.
COLORS aims to portray artists in their most stripped down, raw form, allowing them to show the world who they are amidst all the noise of the entertainment industry and major record labels that sometimes sacrifice the artist's creative freedom. At its core, the show is a simple concept with high production quality and invites every listener to experience artists on all walks of life telling stories through music and projecting their own musical aura into the world.