Seinabo Sey, the daughter of Gambian musician Maudo Sey, lost her father in 2013. She dedicated a 2015 EP to him, and I’m a Dream includes “Never Get Used To,” a song about how grief hollows out everything around the mourner, from inside out. “I sing because you told me to, and then I stop because it sounds just like you,” she sings, and you really do hear their shared cadences.
Her pain isn’t just personal but societal; she’s talked about how, as a biracial woman, growing up in Sweden stifled her. In her defiant 2016 Swedish Grammis performance, she stared down the crowd amid a phalanx of women of color. The number was compared toBeyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show, but to Sey it was as bittersweet as it was triumphant. “[The performance] kind of cemented that feeling that I think about a lot but don’t often talk about: I’m very different than Sweden, than Swedish music,” she told The New York Times. “Breathe,” written on a sabbatical in Senegal, expresses that same thought: “I love it here, ‘cause I don’t have to explain to them why I’m beautiful,” she sings. — Katherine St. Asaph, Pitchfork