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Digital Cover: HELEN – The Rise Of A Bold New Voice

In today’s fast-paced music industry, it takes a unique and powerful voice to capture the attention of listeners and critics alike. With her captivating blend of pop, R&B, and alternative sounds, the multi-talented DMV musician HELEN has emerged as one of those voices.

Her recently released debut EP, Ubiquitous, masterfully balances infectious anthems and introspective tracks, exploring her personal experiences and struggles with societal expectations and injustices, tackling complex social issues and delivering an unapologetic celebration of black womanhood. For our very first cover story and exclusive editorial feature, we dive into the creative mind behind Ubiquitous and explore how Helen is using her platform to make a difference.

Taking us into the creative process behind the making of her Ubiquitous EP, Helen shares how putting the project together was inspired by the positive feedback she received from her previously released songs, “Bitter Bxtch” and “Talk”, which encouraged her to delve deeper into her experiences as a black woman; “After Bitter Bxtch and Talk were released, I had so many people reach out to me and tell me how much those songs had helped them feel confident and badass haha.”

She also confesses that, “Honestly, I had a lot more to say about being a woman and being black, so hearing that from my listeners really inspired me to write more about my experiences. Not only was I able to help myself feel confident but others as well. I had wanted to release an EP for over a year but didn’t know where to start; it eventually came together like that.”

According to Helen, the EP title Ubiquitous refers to the profound impact that black women have had on society and pop culture, and the lack of recognition they receive for their contributions. She is inspired to celebrate and love black women through her music, as she believes their influence and history are often left unacknowledged or silenced completely.

As she explains, “Honestly every single day I learn something new about the impact that black women have had on this world, and as incredible as it is, I often find myself saddened by the fact that I hadn’t learned about it before. Black women’s influences and history are often left unacknowledged or silenced completely. It frustrates me that Black women aren’t celebrated enough, that we aren’t loved enough, and through this project, I wanted to celebrate and love us.”

The EP’s lyrics touch on a variety of topics, including micro-aggressions, performative activism, body positivity, and feminism. These themes are drawn from Helen’s own personal experiences as a black woman, including the challenges of working in predominantly white spaces and dealing with double standards imposed on women.

I’ve come across people who would post about Black struggles and be ‘woke’ online but then would go and treat the actual Black people in their lives with the same aggression and tone as an oppressor,” Helen shares. “It’s frustrating seeing your own community and people struggle daily just to have someone go and make it a trend or a personality that they can just wash off and ignore later. The amount of privilege you must hold to be able to speak about these issues online and then just go on about your day like nothing is going on. It’s belittling to the people that have to face racism daily without any means of escape.”

Some might ask why flying the flag for feminism and addressing the double standards imposed on women is important for Helen to address in her music. To which she responds, “From my experiences and conversations with other women along with my knowledge of history, society tends to try and humble women and make us feel small. I think most women know the power we hold but when the world constantly tells you that you’re not enough, it’s difficult to feel that power. I wanted to write these songs as sort of an affirmation for myself and other women, to know our power and to really say a big f you to society“.

Digging deeper into how she hopes to inspire change through her music, Helen asserts, “To the people that relate to these songs, I just want them to be able to find a safe space within in my music where it’s okay to be frustrated, angry, sad, and tired. To the rest that may be listening, I hope they can maybe reflect on their actions, check their privilege, and if needed, hold themselves accountable.”

Helen collaborated with Grammy Award-nominated engineer Calin Enache and producer Jamie McArdle on the EP, with whom she had worked for almost two years prior. She credits them for capturing the essence of her songs and making the whole process of creating the EP incredibly smooth. The EP’s sound draws from a diverse range of influences, with Helen experimenting with different musical universes. Discussing how she incorporates different genres such as R&B, pop and alternative into her music, and how this melting pot reflects her artistic vision and identity, she says, “I think pop and R&B music have had the most influence on my musical journey and that’s what I lean into the most when I’m writing music. My taste in music is really all over the place though, so I always want to find ways to incorporate that into the music I write and the direction I want a song to take.”

Her diverse and experimental sound has also led to comparisons with the likes of FKA Twigs and PinkPantheress, two artists whom she admires for their artistry and boundary-pushing music. “I’ve had some people tell me my voice is in the likes of FKA Twigs and PinkPanthress and that really is an honor to hear since they’re both amazing artists that also love to cross musical boundaries,” she says, “I love to play around with my vocals and try out new styles, I think that is where the artistry in singing really comes in. I also never want to settle for just one sound when I’m creating music because it’s just more fun that way for the listeners and me.”

Helen sees the EP as a celebration of her identity as a black woman, and she presses in on the importance of showcasing her identity and culture through her music. “It’s really important to me to showcase my identity through my music because not only is it very therapeutic to me but it will allow others to see themselves in something,” she says. “There have been so many black artists past and present that do the same and they have such a huge influence on understanding myself and where I fit in this world.”

Another important identity that Helen wants her EP to embody and celebrate is that of being cute on the outside, but fierce and untamed on the inside, and especially how it relates to her experiences as a black woman and artist. She expands on this idea, telling us that “I really like feeling cute and having an edgy side to myself and style; I think for a lot of black women, oftentimes we’re not able to feel cute and “soft” because we’re either labeled as someone with an attitude or someone with a lot of emotional strength. And while we are strong, a lot of that is from the struggles we face so it’s important for me to allow black women to be soft, cute, and vulnerable while also being the badasses that we are“.

When you listen to Ubiquitous, it is clear that Helen’s EP is driven by its powerful messaging and poignant lyricism, as well as how it wants to bring attention to some of the issues faced by black women. When asked what message she hopes listeners take away from the record and how she hopes it will impact their perceptions of the black woman’s experience, she puts it succinctly, “I just want my listeners to know that they are allowed to be their true selves and don’t need any external validation for that. I hope that my listeners feel confident in themselves and learn to uplift and celebrate black women.”

Helen’s desire for her music to inspire positive change, as shown on Ubiquitous, is not only a reflection of her own personal journey, but her growth as an artist, and the evolution of her music. As she puts it, “Being able to put together a collection of songs discussing a specific topic was a challenge for me at first but something I got to complete; I think you can see how much I’ve grown as an artist through the lyrics and the vocals. I want to continue getting better at writing music and singing in the future so that I can create even greater EPs or albums“.

Sharing how this evolution in her music has been influenced by her life experiences and perspective as a black woman, she tells us, “As a songwriter, I get inspired by my surroundings and my own personal experiences but these topics were not the easiest for me to talk about as they have so much weight. I think being able to finally put them into songs that I actually like really showed me that I have grown so much as an artist.”

One track on the EP that stands out is “Ick,” which examines the female experience through a feminist lens. Helen confronts double standards imposed on women with a bold, girl boss attitude. “I hope that my listeners learn always to put themselves first and to do whatever they want,” she says about what she wants listeners to take away from the song.

Taking us deeper into the creative process behind the track, she shares that “Ick” is a “song that is inspired by the many conversations my best friends and I have had; we’re all now in our mid-twenties and are in our girl-boss era haha. I think women are always held to such unrealistic standards in all aspects of society and that’s also so true when it comes to relationships“.

Another track that stands out on Ubiquitous is “qt“, which celebrates self-love and individuality, with Helen taking inspiration to write the song from the “angry black woman with an attitude” stereotype, which oftentimes she says “black women get called when we’re either stating their opinions, standing up for themselves, setting boundaries, or just exuding some confidence and self-love“. She adds that, “If my existence and confidence as a woman is a problem, then a problem is what I will be. I wanted to write this song to allow myself and others to feel like they are worthy of taking up space, being loud, being confident, and loving themselves.”

At the heart of Ubiquitous is Helen’s commitment to activism. “I’m very passionate about social issues and music has this incredible ability to shape and impact our society,” she explains. “I hope to use my music and platform to bring awareness and to work alongside others to create a world where people are safe to be who they truly are.”

Through her powerful lyrics and evocative melodies, she aims to inspire conversation and foster understanding on topics such as micro-aggressions, performative activism, and cultural appropriation. For Helen, incorporating these themes into her music was deeply personal. “Constantly experiencing racism and micro-aggressions is beyond what words can describe; there were a lot of times when I felt so miserable and broken because of it. At those times, I would listen to music that made me feel good and that celebrated who I am,” she shares.

By writing songs that celebrate her identity and empower others, she hopes to raise awareness and help create positive change, adding that, “Eventually, I wanted to write songs that made me feel empowered and unapologetic so that in turn it could allow others to do the same. I also want to bring more awareness to these issues through my music.”

Yet another standout track on Ubiquitous is “Copycats,” which delves into the issue of cultural appropriation. Helen explains that the song is about reclaiming her own history and shedding light on the deep-rooted racism that often underpins cultural appropriation. “I think so much of black history in the world has been erased or stolen, and we still see that happening to this day. I wrote this song to declare and reclaim my own history. Cultural appropriation is not just someone wearing something that isn’t theirs, it’s also rooted deeply in racism,” she says.

The EP also explores themes of self-love and empowerment, particularly in tracks like “qt” and “Bitter Bxtch.” Helen hopes that her music will encourage listeners to embrace their unique selves, no matter what challenges they face. “I know I’m not perfect and I have a lot of days where I don’t feel my best, but I also know that I’m allowed to be confident and that I’m allowed to take up space,” she reflects. “Whether my listeners are already in a confident bad bxtch mood or having a low day, I hope they can listen to this EP as a reminder that they are worthy of everything good in the world, no matter what.”

She goes on to add that, “I think self-love is a never-ending journey and I don’t think it actually has a specific destination if that makes sense. As people, we are always evolving and changing, but embracing that change and accepting those complicated aspects of yourself is also self-love.”

Despite being labeled a rising IT girl in the industry, Helen remains humble and focused on her goals. “That’s a heavy title, but I’m very honored,” she confesses. “I just hope to make great music and share it with the world.” With her music receiving widespread acclaim for its powerful messaging, she is well on her way to achieving that goal. When asked to describe how it feels to have her work recognized for its powerful messaging and poignant lyricism, she keeps that same energy and confesses that “It’s always an honor to hear good things about my work and I’m grateful that my message was able to resonate with people, it’s an honor to hear something I’ve put a lot of effort into being recognized and I just look forward to working on releasing more music“.

One of the defining moments in Helen’s career came when her track “Bitter Bxtch” was featured in the hit Netflix Original film Do Revenge. She recalls the excitement and disbelief of receiving the email request, initially thinking it was a scam, sharing how, “One day I was at my office job and I received a random email requesting my song to be in a Netflix movie; at first, I genuinely thought I was getting scammed but it turned out to be real!”

The song’s inclusion in the film has since garnered a passionate response from listeners, which Helen cherishes deeply: “It’s been one of the highlights of my musical career and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity. I’ve received so many lovely messages from listeners telling me how much they love the song and it’s just been really great!

Throughout Ubiquitous, Helen touches on a range of social issues, from activism to representation, and she hopes that her music will contribute to ongoing conversations and inspire positive change. “These topics have been discussed and shown so much throughout time by a variety of artists, and I wanted to add my experiences and perspectives on them as well. It’s always important to talk about social issues in order to put those conversations into action,” Helen explains.

Moreover, the 6-track project is finely balanced and showcases an excellent mix of infectious and empowering anthems, along with introspective and socially conscious tracks. So how does Helen balance these different themes and emotions in the creative process? “Honestly when I’m writing songs, I just kind of take myself into a vulnerable place mentally and just let it flow out. Sometimes it sounds pretty bad but oftentimes it turns into something I actually like. These are topics I feel passionate about and so the music kind of flowed and came together naturally,” she confesses.

Overall, Helen’s Ubiquitous EP is a celebration of her identity as a black woman and a powerful message of self-love, representation, activism, and empowerment. If you’re looking for an artist and music that will help you feel confident in yourself, provide a safe space to express yourself, and inspire positive change, Helen has it all in abundance on this project. With a uniquely refreshing sound and poignant lyricism, Helen is proving to be an artist to watch in 2023.

In a world where representation and visibility are still major issues for black women in the music industry, Helen is introducing herself as a powerful young voice that demands to be heard, and is creating music to help black women feel seen and acknowledged in their entirety. Her bold messaging, infectious music, and unapologetic approach to artistry make her an exciting prospect in today’s music industry landscape. If this Ubiquitous EP is anything to go by, then this is just the beginning of what promises to be an exciting career full of groundbreaking music and meaningful contributions to society for Helen.

As we look towards the rest of the year and beyond, we are excited to see what else Helen has in store for us, and we have no doubt that she will continue to inspire and empower with her music. This rising DMV musician has left an indelible mark on us with her Ubiquitous EP, and her message of embracing your true self, and believing that you are worthy of everything good in the world, regardless of external validation. These songs have truly resonated with us, and we hope they resonate with you too.

Listen to Helen’s Ubiquitous EP below and stream it everywhere else here. You can also keep tabs with Helen on Instagram and her website.

Talent ~ Helen
Photography ~ Helen
Hair & Makeup ~ Helen
Styling ~ Helen
Editor In Chief ~ Ayo Adepoju
Cover Design ~ Adomas Lukas Petrauskas

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