Album Reviews, Arts & Entertainment

‘NO THANK YOU’ poignantly hits back at the music industry 

Something felt off amidst the accolades lavished upon Little Simz following her 2021 Mercury Prize-winning record Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Be it by awarding her Best New Artist at the Brit Awards in 2022, despite having just released her fourth album in a decade-plus career, or through the postponement of her North American tour due to the financial strain of being an independent artist, the music industry has repeatedly defined Little Simz’s worth in commercial terms, rather than in terms of her artistry. 

NO THANK YOU sees Simz reflect on her complex relationship with an industry that too often treats Black artists as commercial tools. Its surprise release and minimal promotion subverts listeners’ expectations of what a follow-up to an artist’s most successful album can look like. Lyrically, Simz is introspective in her verses, lamenting the emotional toll of dealing with industry figures who prioritize paychecks and “sending their kids to private school” over her mental health, visible in the standout track “Angel.” Simz is direct in her approach, expressing frustration at herself for participating in the industry despite knowing she would lose agency: ‘What did I expect from those living the corporate life?’

Sonically, NO THANK YOU is more pared back than its predecessor, but Simz and collaborators Inflo, of Sault fame, and Cleo Sol maintain a strict precision to their work, with bursts of richness carefully chosen to amplify Simz’s most confessional moments. On “No Merci,” spurts of telephone rings form a call and response with tense orchestral strings before Simz’s frustration gives way to lush, liquid synths, as Cleo Sol’s backing vocals repeat the mantra ‘you can’t be their saviour.’ Meanwhile, “Gorilla” revisits some of the raucousness of Introvert with an anthemic horn section trading fours with low-strung bass and a dragging drum groove. 

Simz sustains a coolness in her demeanour, acknowledging the grim humour of her position as an independent artist by cracking jokes—for example, mocking the powerful and influential as ‘art collectors, silent investors, and film directors.’ Ultimately, her candour and wryness corroborate the merits of Simz’s approach; NO THANK YOU is a testament to the artistic value of Little Simz making music on her own terms. 

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