Black Blondie show their pride

The musical foursome crank out their emotionally-driven neo-soul for the Prideful for the third year in a row.

Raghav Mehta

One year removed from their critically acclaimed debut album âÄúDo You Remember Who You Wanted to Be,âÄù Black Blondie arenâÄôt the only ones still struggling to pin down their sound. âÄúIf I had to narrow it down to two words: alternative R&B,âÄù says vocalist Samahra Thompson , nodding in agreement with bassist Liz Draper. âÄúI think itâÄôs more like experimental R&B,âÄù said drummer Nate Babbs, initiating debate. With a musical approach that fuses together elements of soul, hip hop and jazz, and vocals that have been compared to everyone from Amy Winehouse to Cyndi Lauper, trying to sum up Black Blondie in a few words would be an exercise in futility. Categorical ambiguity aside, Black BlondieâÄôs debut album was an instant sensation that garnered both local and national praise, countless spots on the best-of-the-year lists and even an opening slot with hip-hop moguls the Roots in their hometown of Philadelphia . And after recently wrapping up a 12-city tour that took the band as far east as Florida, Black Blondie is back to work in the Twin Cities and will be headlining the Uptown Pride Block Party at Bryant Lake Bowl this Saturday for the third year in a row. âÄúIâÄôm big on gay pride, so supporting that is a good thing,âÄù Thompson said. âÄúThere are still people I personally know who arenâÄôt out and donâÄôt feel comfortable, so we do it for friends too.âÄù Despite Pride weekâÄôs rainbow-filled flamboyance, Black BlondieâÄôs album delivers rain clouds rather than rays of sunshine. In âÄúWorld WonâÄôt Rest,âÄù Thompson confesses over a building drum roll singing âÄúI cannot remember a time when I was stable / Or when IâÄôve done anything for the goodness of my heart.âÄù Devoid of a guitarist, Draper and keyboardist Tasha Baron (Heiruspecs, Atmosphere) are deft musicians who structure complex arrangements that oscillate between experimental jazz and neo-soul, pairing smoothly with ThompsonâÄôs poetic crooning. The result is something that is relentlessly bleak yet simultaneously beautiful. Thompson said the meaning behind Black BlondieâÄôs name is more indicative of the tone of their music than racial commentary. âÄúI think even when we donâÄôt write dark music thereâÄôs always some underlying dark current in everything we do,âÄù Thompson said. âÄúYeah, weâÄôre all pretty much manic depressives,âÄù Draper said, laughing. But Black BlondieâÄôs tendency to experiment and meander makes for an experience that is sometimes more challenging than audibly soothing. The band will be headlining the outdoor block party with Minneapolis songstress Tina Schlieske. Satirical performance troupe Dykes Do Drag will also be in attendance, as well as street entertainment by B-Girls MonaLisa & Sugamama.