In the music video for her latest single, Please Don’t, Louise Golbey dons a variation of red bedlah, the type of costume used for belly dancing. Gold jewelry jingles from her wrists. There’s a bottle of champagne for good measure. A guy is sitting at a private booth, watching her. The beat, produced by Freemonk, has a stuttering, arabesque quality to it. If the scene feels familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen a James Bond film before.
Belly dancing long had a reputation for objectifying women. They’re usually scantily clad and hourglass-shaped, as men literally navel gaze at their undulating torsos. But recent years have rehabilitated the dance’s image as an emblem of female empowerment. It’s both sexy and good for the health.
So it is surprising perhaps, that the song and video together reveal something else: uncertainty and vulnerability.
“Please don’t make a fool of me/a fool us/a fool you’ll see,” Golbey sings in the chorus. At the last line, she morphs into a black and white clown costume. It’s a clever inversion of an old trope.
TGA recently spoke with Ms. Golbey about her burgeoning career. She’s a native Londoner, but grew up in Bournemouth. She was raised in a musical family. “I always did dance lessons and sang and used to perform in shows at the local theatre, so I got the stage bug when I was very young. I played the piano too.” During her childhood she got into Soul, R&B, and Hip Hop and, at some point, started writing melodies at the piano.
“I would describe my music as neo-soul or as I like to call it UK Soul!” she says. Her brother was a big influence on her, getting her into A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, and that led to listening to a lot of American R&B. Her voice has an airy, laidback croon that has been compared to Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott, whom she has covered with the song “He Loves Me.”
After university, she went straight into gigging. Much of her career thus far has been supporting and sharing the stage with a number of notable musicians, such as Jessie J, Katy B, Ed Sheeran, and Lianne La Havas, and Roy Ayers. She also opened for jazz guitarist George Benson at the Kenwood House Picnic Concert. Now she’s looking to break out on her own.
Golbey admits by some people might consider her already successful when looking at her accolades and accomplishments. “I am definitely successful,” she said, “but obviously being Independent and unsigned—I want more, and there are still many ups and downs in this industry. I want my music to reach a wider audience,” Golbey said, alluding to an action plan for future progress. “I’d love to do more gigs abroad.” She’s already spent some time touring France and Germany, but is looking to branch out more. Also, “One of my goals is to have more national radio play—Radio 2, for example.” She also has her eyes on supporting someone at the Royal Albert Hall again in the near future, having previously supported Earth, Wind, and Fire there. “It has been a dream of mine to sing on that stage.”
Golbey admits to loving both recording and performing live. “The creative process of being in the studio is unbeatable, but also the thrill of being on stage and connecting with an audience is incredible,” she said. Next year she wants to follow up her current spate of activity with a new EP of material early next year. Keep an eye out for Ms. Golbey. She’s got the voices, the moves, and the moxie to turn modern Soul and R&B on its head.
Stephen M. Tomic