Jacob Banks is an English Soul/RnB singer, originating from Nigeria, however, raised in Birmingham. Although his activity dates back to 2012, where he won a MOBO award and an Adidas “Are You In” music competition, his reach and exposure has only become substantial following his signing to Interscope Records in 2016 and his featuring in the popular COLORS YouTube series, whose aim is to shine light on new, up and coming talent that stands out from the already saturated popular music scene. In this video, Banks performs a live rendition of his song Mercy, produced by XSDTRK and Pierre-Luc Rioux.
From the very first to the very last note, I experienced nothing but shivers and goosebumps as my eyes and ears were witnessing the rebirth of a musical sound that I believed had been archived: Soul music. His deep and powerful voice engages the listener but also resonates with his or her soul, further reiterating the genres upsurge. In addition to the voice, there is a strong presence of gospel sampling, reminiscent of a time where the RnB, Soul and Hip-Hop industry was centralized around such a practice, with producers such as Kanye West and Pharrell Williams initiating the trend in the early ‘00s. The song, Mercy, was released in 2017 as part his track EP, The Boy Who Cried Freedom. On that same project, one can find tracks entitled Unholy War and Chainsmoking, with the former being of a more classical soul nature, and the latter of a more synthetic yet soulful vibe, resembling the work of Flume. Chainsmoking was written by Banks, and the purpose of it was, as he mentioned in an interview with The Fader:
“[…]about understanding that sh*t may be hard, but we push on anyway. I am really happy to share it, the sound mixes old and new vibes which is done across the EP in different colours.”
Later in the year, on October 19th, Banks released Unknown (To You), his fastest growing song ever, with it being the second most listened on his Spotify profile page. It has amassed 4.1m streams in a short two and half months, whilst his most popular song, Chainsmoking, stands today at 4.6m streams since the 20th of April. Unknown (To You) was subsequently remixed by famed producer Timbaland, who brings his own Timbo twist to it, whilst keeping the soulful essence Banks is evidently proficient in.
As an aficionado of all African-American music, the revival of the art form whose pioneers include legends such as Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles and Al Green, brings hope to m
y eyes but also fills my heart with glee, especially considering the shallowness and commerciality of today’s music industry. The fact that people like Banks have the passion and talent to actually make it in today’s formulaic pop culture allows me to keep my head high and simultaneously reduce my cynical view of it. I have great faith that Jacob Banks will become a substantial participant in the future and re-development of soul in today’s world while opening doors to those who assumed there to be no room for it anymore.