Charlie Belle amazes me with their second EP, I Don’t Want To Be Alone. Seventeen-year-old Jendayi Bonds leads Charlie Belle with her guitar, vocals, and songwriting skills. Her brother, fourteen-year-old Gyasi Bonds, gives their songs sonal depth through the drums. Together, the two sibling prodigies leave a lasting impression with their masterful rhythm & blues/pop fusion sound.
Ironically, mature pop is one way I would describe the sound of the EP I Don’t Want To Be Alone. At first, Charlie Belle’s sound comes off like very happy-go-lucky pop. The drums provide the songs with a driving beat while the guitar strumming adds an easygoing flair, making this EP perfect driving music. Yet, the more closely I listened, the more I noticed the mature R&B elements and poignant lyrics. Particularly when arriving at “You Don’t Know Me,” I am hit with the sassy R&B flavor that Jill Scott is known for, both in the lyrics and overall sound.
The single “Petting Zoo” is another great example of Charlie Belle exploring mature topics in a fun sounding way. The guitar strumming intro sets you up for happiness and rainbows but eventually the weight of the lyrics become apparent. Particularly when the song slows down at the chorus, Charlie Belle emphasizes the weightiness of the lyrics: “Nobody knows me like I do / But everyone is telling me what I’m supposed to do.” “Petting Zoo” depicts the reality of hitting that age where you realize that family, friends, and society are all trying to tell you how to live your life–and then having the maturity to reject parts that don’t fit with your true identity. It’s awe-inspiring that Jendayi Bonds can write such mature lyrics at such a young age.
I cannot finish a review on I Don’t Want To Be Alone without noting Jendayi Bonds’ beautiful voice. Jendayi’s voice has the sweetness of Colbie Caillat with the soul of India Arie. Some tracks emphasize more of the sweet side, such as “Petting Zoo.” Other tracks bring out more of the soulful side of her voice, particularly “You Don’t Know Me,” where she even raps mid-way through. While still maintaining her vocal flavor, Jendayi’s crisp vocals enable the lyrics to be heard clearly.
Charlie Belle’s I Don’t Want to Be Alone is a prime example of truly well-done music by musicians who haven’t even lived two full decades. Never underestimate youth. —Krisann Janowitz