Track Review: Hannah Boleyn- Tough Love



Hannah Boleyn


Tough Love




Tough Love available at:

RELEASED: July, 2015

GENRES: Soul; Electro.-Pop


London, U.K.


The album, The Boleyn Affair can be pre-ordered here:




LITTLE is known about today’s musical subject.

Beside her music and image, our star has kept some cards to her chest: in terms of biography/influences, there are a few gaps- what we have is the music alone. A sweet and down-to-earth personality, there is a bit of mystique: the listener extrapolates clues and insights from the songs; what makes (Hannah Boleyn) tick- the person behind the music. Before I speak more about Boleyn, it has raised an interesting point: the issue of social media honesty vs. musical quality. In an age where people are more honest (read: incredible open and waffling) there seems to be no filter- most will post ANYTHING to social media; tire the moon with talk about food, mood- and pretty much anything else for that matter. All of it is personal and unimportant; rarely does anything crucial or factual make its way through- is social media necessary force? I guess it’s good to have an outlet, of sorts: somewhere you can ‘vent’; a way to share thoughts/words- more importantly, you can share music and creative works. Social media is at its most useful when music is being shared: it gives people a chance to hear some new sounds; discover something fresh and inspiring- a new hero/heroine. As important as the music (the core) is, how much should musicians give away? When it comes to their biography, do you air on the side of caution- stick to basics and do not disseminate too much- or are you open with the listener- give detailed personal information; favourite music etc.? I would say a mixture of the two: it is wise having some biography and insight, yet never give too much away- the music should talk the most. Acts and bands that are too forthcoming risk taking away the mystery; becoming too predictable and maybe losing appeal- although it shows they want to connect with the listener; come across as personable and grounded. When you provide few details, the music has to stand up: fill in the lines and back up the minimalism. If your music is impersonal and abstract; this is an issue: the artist risks becoming a name and nothing more- not concerned with being a human, more a portal (or marketing force). If you write personal music (from the heart) it provides opportunity to unleash and unfurl- allows the listener into your psyche; give them a bit of background and insight. Hannah Boleyn is an up-and-coming young artist with beauty to spare: stunning to look at, her music is even more jaw-dropping- something that is open and insular; heart-breaking and sensitive. Her personal website has links to social media/YouTube etc., yet not a lot about her as a person- where she came from; which artists inspire her; a window into her life. Maybe this is a sapling move: Boleyn does not want to give too much away- fearful the music will take second billing- yet I am curious indeed- it would be good to know more about the young star. Possessing such an impressive voice/talent; being in touch with her fans- very friendly and warm- there is that desire. I, for one, would like to know who inspires her- goes into making that voice; moulding her songwriting- and what her plans are (for the rest of 2015). More likely, the music is the mouth-piece: it gives you all the information you need; is objective and vociferous- more eye-catching and informative than any social media biography. The solo realm is a tricky one to crack: the fastest-growing sector, it is the definition of accessibility and ease. Providing you can pen a tune and compose some music- and have a voice of sorts- you are welcomed in- no need to recruit a band or do much else. So long as you have your own sound/voice, then you are straight in. That said, few modern singer/songwriters have a distinct and unique voice; that different and stand-out sound- there is a lot of sameness and predictability. Hannah Boleyn is a proposition apart- that surname alone is both historic and classical- and is not run-of-the-mill singer/artist. Apart from the title of her new song- Tough Love was the name of a recent Jessie Ware album- there is a very particular artist here. Gaining social media ground- her Facebook and Twitter followers are coming in thick and fast- the London-via-Leicester heroine has serious ambition. You can hear the confidence come out (in the music); that drive and hunger- somebody who wants to forge her standard on the music world. There are so many female solo acts out there- more than the men I dare say- and a lot of Pop/Electro.-based examples: trying to separate yourself from the pack is quite a mean feat. Tough Love is Boleyn’s shout-out to the (music) world; her voice coming through- a deceleration to the scene. With her debut album forthcoming- The Boleyn Affair- the rest of 2015 will be an exciting one. Having worked hard over the past year, the young musicians is excited about the future- the chance for the public to hear her in full voice; the full extent of her talent.

Despite being a fledgling act, Tough Love is not Boleyn’s first release. A year ago the single Cemetery was unveiled. The artwork for the single sees our heroine dressed in a chic black dress; bedecked in sunglasses and under an umbrella, it is a perfect representation. The song itself sees our heroine going down to the graveyard; flowers in hand, she is looking for forgiveness, for answers- it seems like a complicated backstory. Imagery and scenes come fully to life, due to that inimitable voice: husky and whiskey-soaked; emotional and intoxicating, Boleyn brings her emotional range to the fore. Finger-clicks and Doo-Wop elements fuse retro sounds with modern production- the result is an explosive and groove-laden kick; a song that fizzes and bubbles; a perfect introduction (to the young star). Following this, When You’re Gone and SO OK were unveiled- along with Tough Love as part of the Cinematic Soul E.P. The former is a restrained and investigative piece; that unique vocal sound looks at past love- a hard break-up and recrimination. Having been put through pain and heartache (by her beau), our heroine is in defiant mood- laying the world to rights. Elements of Amy Winehouse- at her Back to Black best- comes out; that sense of unease and anger- perfectly projected by Boleyn’s world-weary voice. Catchy and sonorous; overcome and overpowering, it is a stunning track. SO OK is a big and brassy number: smoky and urgent, it boasts a huge chorus and classic sounds. Mixing ‘50s Soul/Doo-Wop with some modern Soul sounds- Winehouse comes out; parts Gabrielle Cilmi- and you have a gem afoot. Another introspective track, it sees Boleyn casting her mind back: looking at events. Rather than heart-aching, there is a lighter touch here: the entire track has a relentless drive; it is quick-paced and itchy- never straying from its kick-against-the-world strut. Since these creations- and foreshadowing the L.P.’s forthcoming sounds- Boleyn has progressed and developed. Tough Love- originally premiered last year- sounds full of confidence and ambition; the vocal style/production is slightly different- it has more of swagger and swing; bigger electronic beats; a much bigger rush. Whereas previous incarnations have been more Soul-influenced, here there is an emphasis on Electro.-Pop and electronic influence. Much more suited to the dancefloors and beach scenes- as opposed to Jazz clubs and soul-searching moments- we get more of a smile (in spite of the subject matter). As Boleyn wants love and belonging, the composition swirls and pummels; it is a fast-racing and breathless thing- showing how much more confidence/passion Boleyn (has now). There is quite a difference between Tough Love and, say, Cemetery. Since her debut release, the young singer seems to have matured and developed- throwing off her old skin and bursting into life. Keeping her voice and lyrics strong and ear-catching, instead the overall sound has been bolstered- it is more alert and vibrant; essentially more modern-sounding. Whether you view this as a good thing- Boleyn’s music varies between modern-day rush and vintage Soul without compromising her personality- you will love Tough Love: it is the (urgent) sound of a young woman on a mission.

Tough Love begins with some gentle electronics: almost classical in tone, it builds up a sense of intrigue and romance. When Boleyn comes to the fore, her words are questioning and imploring. Her future seems uncertain; she’s searching for love: will things work out? Will she find someone out there? Riddled with doubts and uncertainty, our heroine is looking outwards for answers. Just as the song starts to settle into a calming (sense of self-examination); the composition rushes and bursts- becoming more frantic and full-bodied. Building off a simple refrain- “I don’t want your tough love”- our heroine has had enough; clearly at a critical stage, she wants a change. The composition joins crackling percussion- providing a sense of urgency and heartbeat- and swelling electronics. Sounding contemporary and mainstream- it could easily accompany a similarly high-charged song by Boleyn’s contemporaries- the vocals elevate proceedings. Retaining her traditional sense of Blues-cum-Soul emotion with passion and urgency, you are caught up in the song. “Say I’m right or don’t speak”; “Please do as I ask you” are two thoughts (that hit my mind): the former shows a woman who has seen too much pain; been through a great deal of upheaval- at a point where things need to change for the better. The latter solidifies this: that urgency and strain comes to the forefront; that need for escape and betterment is clearly evident. Boleyn’s husky and swooning vocals- employing small elements of Winehouse and Cilmi- makes everything sound more authoritative and pressing. Were the vocal sweet and effete, the song would lose a lot of potential- it would come off as rather ingénue and naïve. Boleyn’s full-bloodied womanly deceleration stands proud- and makes Tough Love an arresting thing. That insatiable chorus comes back to rule: quotable and sing-along, it grabs and seduces- an explosion of electronics and voice; a combination of tension and release. A sure-fire festival chorus, it is designed to unite crowds; get hands raised- and gets voices singing. Usually (songs like Tough Love) would be designed towards a certain market- females normally; the younger sect- and would normally have limited appeal. With the messages very much of a female perspective- with songs that do not reach beyond these confines- it is quite frustrating. Most modern Pop/Soul singers- who write similar songs- limit their appeal and audience- come off as limited and one-dimensional. Boleyn is not aiming for a ‘key market’ or demographic: the track is designed for the masses; for your boys and girls, young and old- anyone who care to take notice. This widescreen appeal does not come at the expense of quality and integrity: the track does not dumb-down or betray its roots; it is a filled with detail and consideration. As the song nears its end, our heroine is still searching (for answers): she is “sick of trying”; having been through the mill, she has reached an impasse. The composition introduces some twanging strings; injecting that passion and rush- before the chorus is upon us. The key to Tough Love is its simplicity and chorus. Being quite chorus-heavy, its central message is the weapon at hand: something that is deployed and used to great effect. The song is something of a rarity for Boleyn: it is unlike her previous output; I am unsure whether (her forthcoming album) will contain similar tracks- Tough Love is a slight one-off. If you are a fan of Boleyn then you will not be disappointed: the track contains her hallmark vocals and direction; the change towards Electro./Pop shows a natural development- and not a permanent switch. The Boleyn Affair is sure to contain mixtures of sounds: Blues/Soul ‘classics’ like Cemetery; harder rushes like Tough Love- something more gentle and acoustic-led. An artist that wants to employ diversity and range, Tough Love is a tantalising release. Perhaps those who favour Rock/Indie sounds will take more convincing: the song will need a few spins before its layers are revealed. At the end of the day, Tough Love is a confident and catchy slice of song; something that shows a sensitive and open writer- one who knows the importance of nuance. Tough Love is not a disposable song: it is something that sticks in the mind; reveals new insight (upon each listen) - positive signs with regards the album. A track that looks at love and frustration; the need to find happiness and satisfaction, everyone can relate: the song speaks to the masses; it can be extrapolated by everyone- in that sense, few will not find anything to recommend. I love Boleyn’s voice and its dark huskiness; it has highs and sensitivity- quite a multifarious and varied instrument. Moulding simple and effective lyrics with a complex voice, it is a wonderful combination- it comes off superbly on Tough Love. With some terrific and clear production values, few can deny the charms on offer. One thing is for certain: The Boleyn Affair is an album everyone will want to investigate.

What of Hannah Boleyn’s future? Well, the solo sector is a busy and competitive one: there are new entrants each week; the quality is high (well, it’s variable actually; some fantastic most pretty okay), but I feel Boleyn will do just fine. Tough Love is an open and honest tale: a song that yearns for satisfaction and comfort; a young woman in need of loving arms- a traditional and personal tale. Building off a fantastic chorus, the lyrics are a great insight (into our heroine’s romantic past) - a terrific achievement. It is hard to say what the album will contain- more tracks like Tough Love or fewer examples of this kind; some more uplifted and defiant tracks?- but it is surely going to be a fantastic thing. Boleyn has a very hungry sense of determination; an artist who wants to remain- and record music for many more years. Being fairly new off the blocks, time will be the important factor: whether Boleyn can capitalise on her initial promise- secure a long and prosperous career. When reviewing Nelly Furtado on Saturday- a small review of her debut, Whoa, Nelly! - I highlighted one vital factor: her uniqueness and sense of style. Not one of your Pop princesses- who are committee-made and without any sense of personality or talent- she came across as fresh and daring. Bending her notes and words; stretching lines and peppering lyrics (with vocal tics and quirky asides), she made an impact- few singers are as distinct and memorable. Not only (was her voice) both instant and original, her lyrics betrayed any preconceived notions: mixing behind slams on the modern-day (radio-friendly) scene- Shit on the Radio’- and personal freedoms- I’m Like a Bird- her subject matter varied vastly. Not willing to stand still, her album was packed with personality and uplift; insatiable choruses and a gorgeous voice- sounding like nobody else but Nelly Furtado. Boleyn is yet to drop her new L.P.- that comes in a few weeks- yet Tough Love shows plenty of familiar comparisons: a voice that is uniquely hers; a special way of phrasing; that knack with a chorus- my suspicion is the album will build on this and expand outwards. If that is the case- evidence suggests there will be variety and excitement- you should keep your eyes peeled. Hannah Boleyn marks herself from her peers; aside from the urn-up-and-sling-some-generic-music-together posse. Tomorrow, Boleyn plays Ronnie Scott’s (Jazz Club): a practical rite-of-passage for young singers worth their salt. An exciting gig for sure, and one that proves one thing: the capital is embracing what they hear; there is an audience out there. The young singer has worked hard her career: made steps and tirelessly plugged; that sense of ethic and indefatigableness comes through (on Tough Love). Make sure you check out the song- enjoy every note and confessional beat- and investigate an artist with a lot to say- someone with clear signs of longevity and prowess. Packing huge emotional weight; hugely effective as a lyricists- and possessed of a voice that could melt the ice-caps- Boleyn is on her way to the top. It will be hard to forge some space; poke her head from the throng, yet she need not worry: her music has potential enough to elevate her to great things. In time her social media ranks will swell; more will be known about (the personal behind the voice) and more gigs forthcoming- must go and see her the next time she plays London. I am glad I found Hannah Boleyn: an artist I will be watching closely; seeing where she goes from here. Tough Love is an earnest and spine-tingling statement from a young woman with plenty of strength and passion. As I close this review I am pleased: not just for the sake of witnessing a brilliant young talent, but most impressively I didn’t even make…

A single Anne Boleyn/Henry VIII joke.




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