For Arlo Parks, a song isn’t just a vibe but a story. Carefully crafted with tidbits of real life details and poetic liberties, Parks is able to capture very personal moments while tapping into our overarching shared human experience.
Parks is 18 years young, having grown up in Great Britain as one of three black kids in her school, she recalls a lonely childhood and an often melancholic adolescence. Yet from these struggles formed strong bonds with fellow gen Z-ers, many of which understand the plight of coming into one’s own during this very unique period of time. Her music reflects her story, offering a wise point of view while avoiding any type of pretension. Parks feels like your best friend or maybe even you.
Her first release, “Cola" was birthed into the world less than a year ago, and since Parks’ gift for song and storytelling has not gone unnoticed. Capturing the attention of The FADER, VICE, a collection of notable playlists on Spotify including POLLEN, and renowned British singer-songwriter Lily Allen, Arlo Parks is quickly becoming a staple and forced to be reckoned with in contemporary R&B. Though the rise to recognition has happened swiftly, Parks has been preparing for her artistic debut her entire life.
Deeply influenced by literature, art, classic R&B, jazz, and punk/emo culture, Parks’ breadth of artistic education is both versatile and rich. An avid lover of the peculiar and cutting edge, her influences range from influential American street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to legendary sad girl author and poet, Sylvia Plath. These unique veins of interest are apparent throughout lyrics from her debut EP Super Sad Generation (Jan. 30). Simple lines void of frills but abounding in social commentary fill each track, leaving the listener just a tad more woke by the conclusion. Sonically, influences along the lines of Erykah Badu and jazz greats such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis find their way into Park’s lo-fi, jazz-infused sound and honeyed, relaxed vocals.
Her most recent release, “george” (June 13) is a continuation of these trends. A nod to 18th/19th century poet and politician Lord George Byron, known for his sexcapades and rockstar life style, “george” and its visual companion chronicles the story of an individual going about life recklessly but not necessarily with cruel intentions. Symbols are scattered throughout the lyrics and video, from crushed flowers to blood, ticks, and claustrophobic goldfish, in order to gather all you can from “george” listening and watching the video a few times over is required.
It is exactly these thought-provoking projects that set Arlo Parks apart from the rest. The combination of euphonious music combined with lyrics that focus on a variety life experiences, drawing from art and literary references, creates a whole new enlightened experience for her listeners. Parks doesn’t want you just to feel, but to think as well.