“We always say music is therapy to us,” Chloe x Halle told Apple Music recently, “because the lyrics are healing.”
That’s why they chose to cover TLC’s classic “Waterfalls” for a curated Apple Music compilation playlist that honors Juneteenth and Black Music Month. Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Kane Brown, and more lent their voices to a Juneteenth 2021: Freedom Songs playlist, which features original compositions and covers that highlight and celebrate the nuances of being Black.
“This song speaks so much to who we are as artists and human beings,” the duo explained of “Waterfalls.” The song’s verses examine mother-son relationships, drug use, HIV, and how our choices can have life-altering consequences — but it also has a message of hope. “There's something about singing these words to yourself—it turns into an encouraging mantra that makes you feel inspired after listening.”
Music has always been a key component in the liberation of those in the African diaspora. South African musician Hugh Masekela sang of freeing Nelson Mandela from prison in the anti-apartheid anthem "Bring Him Back Home"; Billie Holiday’s “Stange Fruit” told stories of lynching and racism in the 1930s. Juneteenth 2021: Freedom Songs brings together 20 artists across genres such as R&B, hip-hop, country, jazz and gospel to sing about the complexities of the Black experience. In addition to “Waterfalls,” standout songs include “Approximately Free” by Black Thought (from The Roots) and H.E.R.’s cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler),” which H.E.R. calls a “timeless” song. Other artists on Juneteenth 2021: Freedom Songs include Amaarae, Kirk Franklin, Tobe Nwigwe and Hit-Boy (whose song has writing credits from Kendrick Lamar).
For those that don’t know, the American holiday of July 4th is not considered a day of freedom for everyone. African Americans were still in bondage and fighting for freedom while white people celebrated their independence from the British. In the United States, Juneteenth (June 19th) will soon be a national holiday, recognizing the day in 1865 that Union soldiers came to Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free some of the last enslaved people. This day marks the unofficial end to slavery in the U.S. (the 13th amendment wasn’t ratified until December 1865) and is a celebration of emancipation for the Black community. Deliberate moves have been made to erase the ugliness of this portion of American history, keeping Juneteenth out of school curriculums, for example.
But Juneteenth’s national recognition, while important, is seen by many as a “symbolic gesture,” especially in light of how far the U.S. government has to go in truly liberating the Black community from racist systems and pervasive inequality. And so these older songs on the playlist still ring true today. “The simple hook of ‘Make me wanna holler, the way they do my life’—as if my life is of lesser value than somebody else’s,” H.E.R. said of Marvin Gaye’s protest song. “I just thought there was so much power in that message and that it applies to now. It’s one of those songs that we can play and still relate to today.”
Below, find the full tracklist and listen to the playlist on Apple Music.
Black Thought (Original Song "Approximately Free")
D Smoke (Original Song called “Kinfolk”)
H.E.R. (Cover of “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye)
Hit-Boy (Original Song “Back In Traffic")
Jimmie Allen (Cover of Charley Pride’s “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin”)
Kirk Franklin (Cover of “We Shall Overcome” called "Overcome 2021")
Madison Calley (Cover of “Lift Every Voice And Sing”)
Maverick City Music (Original Song “Breathe")
Tobe Nwigwe (Original Song “Passing Through")
Willie Jones (Cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”)
Amaarae (Cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly”)
Tems (Cover of John Legend’s “Ordinary People")
Zeal & Ardor (Original Song “Calloway")
Sech (Original Song “Somos Iguales")
Kane Brown (A reimagining of his own song “Worldwide Beautiful”)
Saba (Original Song “Black Astronaut”)
Honey Dijon (Original Song “Unleash")
Chloe x Halle (Cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls”)
Jean Dawson (Original song “Ghost")
Terrace Martin & Brandee Younger (Cover Song “Damage”)
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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Making Juneteenth a National Holiday Would Be Just Another Symbolic Gesture
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue