Selah Sue: Belgium’s Funkalicious Ragamuffin

There is revival happening. You may not even be aware it’s happening, given the people involved. But make no mistake, the soul singer is coming back; women like Joss Stone, Adele and Sharon Jones are doing their best to restore the old time soul/funk sounds of our grandparents. A relative newcomer and rising star to this scene is Leuven’s Selah Sue. At 24, Selah shows immense poise, musical variety and inspiration to make a seasoned performer. It’s all the more spectacular considering the fact that English is not her native tongue.

Although born in Leuven, Selah Sue hails from Leefdal, in Flanders – the Flemish area of Belgium – and roughly a half-hour from the Brussels-Capital district. While her accent is noticeable, her English is spot on. She actually mentioned to me that she’s more conscious when she’s playing a gig in the U.S. or Canada as it makes try harder because the fans could notice grammatical and linguistic errors. Either way, she’s a fantastic performer.

She stated that her biggest influences are Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. In regards to the latter, Selah claims that Hill is a singer who can do it all – there’s singing, rapping, excellent songwriting, you name it. Hill’s influence definitely comes across on stage. In certain songs, Selah had a bit of the female MC vibe going on. Yet she also powerful vocals and is not afraid to belt one out. She could Adele a run for her money in terms of longest held note.

Her variety in style also is widely apparent. While this was her first tour with a full a backing band – who all got their moment to shine, with bass solos and drums solos and guitar licks, and who backed up her fine soul-inspired songs – Selah is also not afraid to go low key. For a change, she picked up a guitar and went singer-songwriter on the audience as the rest of her band went dark. While these were good songs and I appreciate her willingness to show vulnerability, I must prefer the full-force of the band’s soul-funk dancethon.

If that wasn’t enough, she played the royal wedding in Luxembourg, and recorded a special version of her song “spoonful” for a Bradley Cooper Haagen-Dazs commerical. Did I mention that her album features “Please” a duet with none other than “the Voice” judge Cee-Lo Green?

I have probably mis-characterized Selah Sue as strictly Soul. She is more neo-soul/soul-pop/dance-funk. While that is true of the base, many of her songs of more dance-driven and have strong hip-hop attitudes and party vibes. Audience members were definitely kicking it on the dance floor or working it from the bar stool. Selah Sue moved all the around the stage (like a true Soul MC should) and the crowd with her every pop & lock dance step of the night. Like the title of her songs, she swiftly glides like a ragamuffin, a poised, powerful and poignant ragamuffin.

Selah Sue’s self-titled debut album was released in Europe and the U.K on March 4, 2011 and in North America in 2012. She also has three EPs, the latest of which – Rarities – was released late 2012.

RIYL: Adele, Lianne La Havas, Joss Stone, Jessie Ware, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu


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