"If You Scared Just Say It": Black and Queer with Nothing to Prove- A Preview of Shirlette and the Dynamite Brothers

March 3, 2011


Play the song before it plays you. Turn it on before game recognizes game. Touch the wound inside before it heals.

This is the urgency of the sharp lyrics and doom bass-lines of the new collaboration between Shirlette Ammons, the Dynamite Brothers and a slew of North Carolina’s quirkiest artists on their new project: “Shirlette & the Dynamite Brothers.” The title isn’t the only thing that makes it plain. Full of lust, not pretending to be anything but lust and love wishing it wasn’t really love, this series of songs faces you with that encounter at the bar, that number exchange, those nights you can’t get back and makes you wish you had at least wrote about it and sang to keep from crying.

The queer thing is that these are dark love stories without anything to prove. And for a crew of LGBTQ singers and artists in the age where the dominant political presence of that alternative- lifestyle-type-love is marriage inclusion and clamored for psuedo-respectability, this is a queer stance indeed. What if we already are who we’re supposed to be? What if we give “no nevermind” to the chokehold structure of fairy tales and live our lives as the lessons they are? During Black History Month no less.

On “Kissin and Cussin,” Shirlette sets the context, “your kiss is fist violent” and (Grammy winner!!!!!) Justin Robinson opens the first version of the chorus “tell me pretty baby do you think you’re too sweet to die?” Rhianna and Eminem and others have tried this dangerous and controversial hate-how-much-I-love-you trope before, but never with as much haunting, this “inherited, handed down” inevitability. The track is dark, like a chain gang walking on their hands in a coalmine. No one sees a way out, but the fiddle struggles like life depends on it and dawn breaks.

The album is a threat, what if we no longer have to be clean, shiny, fresh and without angles to be visible as who we are. What if we claim the place we stand in? Strut in the funky complicated mess of being here and changeable? On “Tomorrow Neva Comin,” Shirlette and Yahzarah assert that this is the question of the future asking “If you scared just say it you scared if you’re not why not go head and take it there.” This album takes it there, to that place too many of us can’t admit we already are: ready to just say fuck it, let go of who we thought we were and what we thought the game was and just live real with each other in the face of the morning.

Play these songs before they play you. Accept the invitation to stop your frontin, tomorrow’s comin.

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