Earlier this year, Andra Day received a unique gift from a fan in Japan while on tour for the Blue Note Festival. “She gifted me a very cute umbrella and said, ‘Your song helped me get through my rainiest days,’” recalls the singer, 31, whose resilient aria “Rise Up” — which peaked at No. 6 on the Adult R&B Songs chart — has scored both a Serena Williams ad for Beats By Dre, and the more general Black Lives Matter movement.
The San Diego native’s ascent from child dancer (she enrolled in the city’s school for Creative and Performance Arts at 10) to live dynamo and lyrical savant has secured her two Grammy Award nominations, thanks to her 2015 major label debut, Cheers To The Fall.
Sprinkling in hints of her idols Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, Day’s hearty mix of soul and blues on Cheers (she’s racked up 72 million on-demand streams in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music) has propelled her into a banner 2016, despite a non-existent sleep pattern. “This year, one thing that’s changed is I feel like my purpose is creating music that really changes people’s lives on a personal level and on a societal level, and I think that vision has become very clear.”
In honor of her “Powerhouse” award for this year’s Women in Music ceremony (which tapes Dec. 9 in New York and airs Dec. 12 on Lifetime), here are five essential Andra Day records you should listen to.
Day expresses her regret for falling for a side-piece while chucking the deuces to her loyal lover. “I gave up gold for grains of sand/ Slippin’ through my hand,” she sings.
“Cheers To The Fall”
The title track of her debut finds Day channeling late soulstress Amy Winehouse over a groovy, guitar-driven melody that pleases the ears all year round.
“Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand)”
Despite the name, this throwback song steers clear of any Snoop Dogg-inspired turn-up, but rather shows Day pouring her heart out with one simple request: “Don’t hold my hand, boy.”
This deep cut appeared on The Hamilton Mixtape, a remixed version of the cast recording from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash, utilizing Day’s alto for a poetic love note that finds her singing, “You forfeit all rights to my heart.”
No quintessential Andra Day playlist would be complete without the uplifting record that catapulted her career. Accompanied by a tearjerking visual dubbed the “Inspiration Version”, the power ballad can turn any struggle into a victory.