Last year, as part of Billboard’s Black History Month celebration, we asked Black artists spanning all genres to compile unique playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. Everyone from Normani and Khalid to DJ Premier and Rapsody shared tracks that represented their love for the culture across the diaspora — from childhood favorites to songs that make them feel free. We continue the celebration in 2020, with soul/pop singer Melody Thornton sharing her soundtrack today.
“Celebrating Black History is bigger than just the month of February,” Thornton tells Billboard. “My ancestors survived endless degrees of degradation in order for myself and my family to be afforded the opportunities that we have now.
“All of the great leaders and activists made it their priority to empower their people. They have communicated our position and worked to correct some of the wrongdoings that we have been subjected to throughout the history of this country; despite the dangers and setbacks they may have personally been faced with.”
The singer continues: “I admire the resilience of African-American people both past and present as we are still faced with many obstacles and mental anguish in our pursuit of happiness and well-being. I am very proud to be Black and Brown. We have managed to excel in so many ways, despite our past. My hope for the future is the continued conversation about the direction in which we would like to grow. I hope that we support everyone’s efforts and cheer for one another from beginning to end.”
Below, Thornton dives into some of her favorite tracks on her playlist.
1. Whitney Houston, “The Star-Spangled Banner”
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is a song that means so much to me. Whitney Houston obviously had a lot to do with making this anthem resonate with African-American people. Given our history in this country and the psychological effects our history has had on African-Americans, I believe there have always been questions as to where we should invest our hearts. When Whitney sang this song she made us all proud to be Americans and broke down many barriers for us to all be proud.
2. Kendrick Lamar, “Element”
When I heard “Element” by Kendrick Lamar, I said to myself, “That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say.” [Just] stay focused and keep your heart on fire for the life you want.
3. B.B. King, “Let The Good Times Roll”
“Let The Good Times Roll” is a song my dad, my sister and I would get all hyped up to in his ’67 Cadillac on road trips to the desert. Anytime I hear this song it makes me smile. I play it whenever there’s a scenario that doesn’t play out the way I thought it might. The point is to say, “Hey, you only live but once and when you’re dead you’re done… so let the good times roll!”
4. Nina Simone, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Everyone suffers from the stories we create in our heads about what people must think of us, but it is a unique and daunting experience if you have to ask yourself “does it have to do with the color of my skin?” I included “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” for this very reason. At times, we feel the need to prove that we’re “trustworthy” out of fear that we maybe be judged by a stereotype. If you have never felt this, you have had the luxury of receiving the benefit of the doubt. You have had the luxury of knowing how it should be for all of us.
5. Luther Vandross, “The Impossible Dream”
“And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest” — this is the part of “The Impossible Dream” that resonates with me the most. I sometimes say I have a contract with the almighty, I will fight for that dream. It’s a very empowering and beautiful song.
Melody Thornton, who previously made her mark as a member of the Pussycat Dolls, is now focusing on her solo ventures. She takes pride in writing and co-producing her latest single, “Love Will Return.” Released last November, it is the singer-songwriter’s first solo music since 2012’s P.O.Y.B.L project, and the first taste from her upcoming EP.
Enjoy her BHM playlist — which includes 1995’s “Freedom (Theme From Panther),” which is not available on Spotify — below.