Shanaz Dorsett – Be Afraid (audio)

Shanaz Dorsett – Be Afraid (audio)

“Those who can’t do, teach”. Well save that for someone because it certainly doesn’t apply to Shanaz Dorsett. A lecturer at the University of Westminster, she’s 100% a master at her songwriting craft and this is what drawn me in her multiple posts teasing Be Afraid, her first solo single since 2018.

“I was told to tone it down since I was a little child. Oh, and I tried to shrink. Tried to hold it in. But it builds and it builds, and it builds, and it builds, and it builds… It builds and it builds, and it builds, and it builds till it spills out.”

These lyrics made my younger self feel seen like no other songs. They mirror all my firstborn child’s thoughts and emotions. I was the little girl being told to behave and lead by example for my siblings, to quietly pay for their mistakes, to stop crying my crocodile tears when others had it worse than me and to not air my dirty laundry in public. During my teenage years, I used to often describe myself as a kettle or volcano: I was the calm before the storm, silently sucking up all the anger, sadness and frustration until I couldn’t suppress it anymore. No shade to my parents whom I love very much as I know they did the best they could with what they have and who they were. Just yesterday, we were laughing reading through my old diaries and poems but it also saddened my mom to see how much I was bottling up inside. 

But enough about me. What I love the most about Shanaz’ simple yet powerful words is that they’re ingeniously wrapped in subtle layers of interpretation, transforming a very specific and personal experience into a universal feeling that everyone can hold onto. These are actually my favorite songs and the first one that comes to mind is Labrinth‘s Jealous which most people believe to be your usual heartbreak song when in fact, it was about his father leaving the whole family behind to start a new life. Well, it’s kind of a similar story for Be Afraid, which Shanaz dedicates to “anyone who’s been called ‘too much, over sharers, emotional yappers”, but also survivors. “I keep thinking of Richard Gadd in that monologue scene in Baby Reindeer, or Michaela Coel on that podium in I May Destroy You, she reveals on Instagram. I keep thinking of the small army @sistahspace_ assembled to show up for Ella Janneh. And my favourite quote from Zora Neale Hurston: ‘If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it’. I’ve been angry singing this in the shower for a year and it feels so so good to pass it on to even just a few people who need it.”

Produced by Amarah (EARTHGANG, Smino), the neo soul track will inspire you to speak up about everything you’ve endured because as the singer-songwriter states: “your big fat mouth is your power”. Convinced that “even our most everyday stories deserve to be told”, Shanaz Dorsett quickly found a special place on my current rotation and I can’t help but hope there’s a whole EP around the corner, waiting to become the soundtrack of my life.

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