TANSU’s New Indie Neo-Soul Release
TANSU has been training to become a diva her whole life. The longtime Harlem resident, who is of Turkish-Irish descent, has an irrepressible spirit, a renegade sense of fun, and a totally knockout voice, honed through years of training with the masters and absorbing the work of her favorite soul divas. Born in New Jersey and raised in London and Connecticut, TANSU always felt connected to soul music. Specifically, some of her core memories involve Whitney Houston: as a toddler she refused to eat her dinner unless “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” was playing. And she remembers waking up every morning, playing with her Barbie dolls, and listening to the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack on repeat, entranced by The Voice emanating from her speakers. Throughout TANSU’s youth, the pop stars of the day were like gods: she worshiped at the altar of Mariah and the Spice Girls, artists who combined vocal chops and platinum-plated charisma with a gonzo attitude and fierce commitment to their art.
It was artists like these who inspired TANSU to throw herself into performance arts at high school. But the limited training she was able to receive – only Broadway or classical, hardly the kind of high-glitz, forward-thinking music TANSU loved – felt lacking. When she enrolled in the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, she was finally able to study pop music properly, as well as the kind of technique that would allow her to try her hand at any style she wanted – setting the stage for an artistry defined by effortless genre bending and a deft musical ear.
After college, TANSU moved to New York and began working in fashion, a field that she describes as “another performing art,” much like music. TANSU loves fashion – and still has a lot of connections in that world, a must for any future pop star – but she says that “fashion can eat you alive.” She speaks from experience: working for one of the major fashion houses early in her career, she began spending upwards of 15 hours a day chained to her desk, rarely seeing family and friends and burning herself out trying to be an A+ worker. Then Whitney died. The passing of her prime inspiration, someone who had provided solace and connection to her for her entire life, was a wake-up call for TANSU. She realized that Whitney singing for the world was a great, selfless gift, and given that she too had a remarkable voice, it would be selfish if she didn’t try to do the same. From then on, fashion took a backseat to her true passion: music.
Her debut EP The City, recorded with friend and longtime collaborator Dave Rublin (American Authors), is a chronicle of a life lived well, delivered by a sterling, astounding voice; spanning indie-soul, sparkling pop and hypnotic trap, it’s a brilliantly defined debut for the lifelong musician. The Part One in its title says all you need to know: TANSU has a lot more to say from here.
Working with Dave, who she had met at Berklee, in a handful of different apartments and recording studios, The City slowly took shape. Even when she found herself hamstrung or unmotivated, or when life got in the way, Dave was relentless in pushing her to finish this body of work; their collaboration is one of perfect symbiosis, his sharp musical knowledge a perfect match for her acrobatic voice.
The sultry neo-soul epic “Downtown” is a prime example of their creative chemistry. TANSU floats among Dave’s rich, undulating backdrop, the bassline hum slowly building to an ecstatic climax, mirroring TANSU’s bittersweet tale of love, sex and jealousy, which attempts to interrogate the emotions that fuel nights of recklessness and partying. It makes a sharp contrast to “Easy Love,” The City’s understated finale, which finds TANSU charting the ups and downs of a long term relationship with grace and clarity. Recalling the rich maturity of classic 2000s R&B, TANSU’s words are accented by Dave’s sumptuous production, the perfect backdrop for TANSU’s conversational vocals.
The City’s undeniable centrepiece is “Got 2 Me,” a simmering ballad on which TANSU allows her resplendent, powerhouse voice to shine at its fullest potential. An “emotional followup” to “Downtown,” it’s a song about learning to be vulnerable in a relationship, in spite of your best instincts. Smoky and tense, it’s a showstopping piece of soul-pop, TANSU’s voice slipping between an ingratiating low register and a clarion belt. A remarkable work of patience and skill, it’s a song that feels effortless, belying the fact that TANSU has been working for this her whole life, and then some.
Then there is the stunning single “Easy Love” which is a cathartic soft goodbye. TANSU confides, “It is a song about letting go of a friend while respecting the life and beauty the relationship once shared. A loving tribute to someone you can no longer be there for, the song helps us all tell our former friends to take it easy, love.” The track entices with soul-drenched vocals, heartfelt melodies and kaleidoscopic synths.
You can connect with TANSU on Instagram @iamtansu