There’s a term that I use a lot for mid-tempo, danceable tracks where the rhythm physically moves me. Songs where I can’t help but smile as they begin and feel completely willing to go down whatever road they want to take me down. Sway, that’s my term for songs like Stevie Bill’s “Better”, and this song has sway for days.
Originally from Berlin Germany, Stevie Bill moved to New York City to study at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Her melodies and lyrics honour the music she grew up listening to and combines those influences with the sounds/flavours of contemporary pop music. Bill sites artists such as 90’s RnB singer Toni Braxton and mega R&B/Pop group TLC as influencing her musical tastes and style adding that pop artists like Post Malone and Clairo also contribute to her overall sound.
The cool thing about Bill’s new song “Better”, is that there are so many elements at play in this song that duck and weave in and out of the different sub-genres of pop music. For example, the slightly crunchy, coming out of your radio sounding electric guitar that starts the track took me back to a more pop/country Shania Twain kind of sound. When the drums come in, I even got big Eric Church “Springsteen” vibes especially considering how much mid/high emphasis is put on the kick and snare sounds. Then Bill starts singing, and I feel at that moment that “Better” has far-reaching appeal no matter what kind of pop music you like listening to.
Her beautiful, ethereal voice immediately brings a sense of ease and calm to the track and completely draws the listener into the words she is singing. I definitely hear the TLC and Toni Braxton influences especially in the clarity, and lightness of Bill’s vocals. To me, this demonstrates not only a knowledge of the genre elements she is pulling from but also a deep understanding of the mechanics of vocal delivery and the different emotional levels that can be achieved by using her singing voice in different ways.
I started to get more of that contemporary pop feel in the second verse when the synth pad and more digital/midi sounding guitar parts came into the mix. This song is a bit like auditory-alchemy, Bill honours the flavours the different genre elements bring to her song and finds a way to make them work collectively towards a common message and overall feel. Once the chorus kicks in, the track becomes fuller without getting bigger and changing the overall sway of the song. The instruments get a little louder in the mix signalling to me that I’ve now entered the main part of the song, but Bill’s emotionally peaceful and soft vocal stays peaceful and soft throughout. Building on that contemporary pop influence, Bill’s vocal sounds like it’s doubled with a slight effect on the second vocal track creating a slightly Post-Malone-esque bigger chorus feel without losing the emotional resonance of Bill’s vocal and the song overall. There is also a deep lower octave harmony that when mixed with Bill’s vocals adds depth, and enhances that peaceful, ethereal quality that she carries throughout the song.
I also love the metaphors Bill uses in the chorus lyrics, not only because of the way they describe the story but also how they implicitly describe what’s going on in the track musically.
Get lost in the sound
I’m light as a feather
You’re taking me out of my comfort but there’s no pressure
Cause I’m most of myself
When we are together
The lyrics describe the listening experience this song provides. The listener gets lost in the soundscape this song is creating, realizing all the different pieces at play and feeling all those elements come together as a whole. The lightness and angelic quality of Bill’s voice only adds to the peaceful sensation of listening to this song. All of these flavours come together to create something familiar yet unique, something I felt I knew and yet something I hadn’t experienced in this way before. This is who Stevie Bill is, and she is giving us a song that not only reflects her influences but also introduces new listeners to the kind of artist she aspires to be.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Better” by Stevie Bill and I can’t wait to see/hear more from her. Watch the video for “Better” below: