Shedding Light on the Dangers of the Music Industry with Jessie Reyez

Patience Kayira ’20
Assistant Arts Editor



    “I feel like every little girl dreams about being something when they grow up. Some girls dream about being lawyers. Some dream about being mommys, and I dreamt about being a singer.” This is the introduction to “Gatekeeper,” the fifth track on Jessie Reyez’s EP, “Kiddo.”

“Gatekeeper’s” candidness about the vulnerability young women face in the music industry has caused the 26 year-old Colombian-Canadian artist to gain recent popularity. With her gravelly sincere voice, Reyez sings about her obstacle-filled journey to stardom.

    With a sound that infuses elements of jazz, rock n’ roll, hip-hop and pop, Reyez appears to be a blend between the late Amy Winehouse and Corinne Bailey Raye. On the cover of “Kiddo,” one sees a young girl holding a red balloon-a testament to the theme of growing and learning.

“Gatekeeper” is one of the seven emotionally-charged songs on the EP. On her Twitter biography, Reyez unapologetically wrote, “I like to sing about shit I don’t like to talk about.” Taken from a personal experience, “Gatekeeper” provides an unfiltered look on the unspoken horrors in the music industry. Beginning with the erie strums of a guitar, the song creates a troubling mood for the listener.

    In an interview with CBC Radio, Reyez explained the story behind “Gatekeeper.”In the early days of her career, Reyez moved to Florida to pursue music. “Gatekeeper” describes an instance where Reyez, under the false expectation of going to the studio, experienced sexual abuse from a music producer.

When asked about her decision to write this song, Reyez said confidently, “I wanted to create unity for the men and women who have been through the same thing. … When you’re young and naïve, and this is all you’ve been chasing for, it’s very easy to get persuaded by a person who has a mask on.”

Despite the dark subject matter, Reyez uses her artistry to reclaim the power in her journey.

The lyrics of “Gatekeeper” critique the music industry’s power players: Twenty million dollars in a car/Girl, tie your hair up if you wanna be a star. Reyez allows the listener to perceive the vulnerability of her situation at the time.

In addition, the music video of Gatekeeper emphasizes a theme of innocence as one sees a young Jessie Reyez singing into a toy microphone and twirling in front a camera. In addition to the music video, “Gatekeeper” also has an extended short film where Reyez explains the impact of this encounter.

For Reyez, “songs are like memories you have bottled up.” The other songs on “Kiddo” reflect “Gatekeeper’s” confession-like approach, with Reyez extrapolating on heartbreak, sadness and pride.

The opening track is almost like a conversation between Reyez and the listener. The explicit title, “Fuck It,” channels the spirit of seeking revenge and moving on.

“Figures,” on the other hand, is a soft ballad addresses the hurt one experiences in a broken relationship. “Figures” also showcases Reyez’s artistically croak-like voice. “Great One” concludes the EP with a cultural anthem. Reyez pours her aspirations and goals into the lyrics while also asking philosophical questions. “What is life? What is love? What are lies? What is trust?” In this last song, Reyez provides listeners with her purpose as an artist.

Although she is a  rising star, Reyez is still an unsigned artist. With a strong social media presence, Reyez has performed on the Jimmy Fallon Show and at the BET Awards.

Her direct, evocative lyrics remain true to her identity. With her makeshift ponytail and distant smile, she is a musician with a lot to say.