By 'Medium' Shawn Cleaver
Brandon who? Exactly.
Brandon Banks is a singer/songwriter from Inglewood, California.
That’s his whole Spotify bio. But I'm here to argue he’s much more than just a nine-word sentence.
I think he may be the most slept-on artist around, and if you’re the kind of person who will read a whole article about someone you don't know, written by someone you don't know, you've come to the right place.
I've been the Music Director of George FM for almost five years. It’s literally my job to identify under-rated musicians and to share them with the George audience. When I get it right, it's a beautiful thing. Everyone wants to be good at their job, but honestly, I just love the feeling of backing the right horse and later thinking "I told ya so" (I'd never say it though… that’s dickish).
Usually, the horses I am deciding between are heavy ones: Wilkinson, FISHER, Alison Wonderland, Lee Mvtthews… music from these types of artists make up George FM six days a week. However, George FM has always sounded different on Sundays - AKA 'Chillsville'. It’s a weekly breather from the heavy drum 'n bass and banging house tunes. It's a day of reflection, variety, and hangovers.
In steps Brandon Banks. We've only been playing him on Sundays for a few weeks, yet he's made one of the biggest musical impressions on me of the last few years.
Brandon's style is very much in line with the recent revival of R&B. You may think of Boys II Men, D'Angelo, or even Ne-Yo when you think of R&B.
Now, there is an extremely talented cluster of new R&B musicians who have recently risen to prominence, headlining some of the biggest festivals on the planet (Frank Ocean, H.E.R.) and topping charts all over the world (Daniel Caesar, Anderson .Paak, Brent Faiyaz, SZA).
Musically, Brandon Banks belongs with these great names.
His distinct and controlled vocals, poetic lyricism, and deep subject matter set him apart from other up and coming artists in this genre.
This is where I'll recommend accompanying your reading with some listening, but be warned: My recommendation list is long.
His tune 'PICO' is about getting it on with a “"gentle type / but at the side got a little fire." This song is the centrepiece to his first EP 'STATIC', and opens with some sort of… vibraphone? Glockenspiel? Whatever it is, it provides the bones of a dreamy backdrop, layered in bright vocals with a smooth flow.
Staying with 'STATIC' check out 'BUTTERFLY'. Brandon gets rid of the drums to provide an emotional acoustic moment that sounds like it belongs in a tearjerker scene from a TV show… which it was, actually - in an episode of 'Queen Sugar' (I’ve never heard of that show either, don't worry).
Whilst these two songs centre around romantic interests, Brandon’s subject matter goes well beyond that. He is especially poignant when discussing his turmoil within himself, and with his immediate environment, especially as a black man from a tough part of L.A.
'MIRRORS' expresses his turbulent relationship with himself the best. You can tell he is a very reflective guy (pun absolutely intended).
"Mirror, mirror on the wall / Who's the fairest of them all? / I don’t like what I see / Don't you antagonise me."
'Moor' gives a moving snapshot into the reality of systematic racism in America, and the struggle behind trying to make something of yourself in an environment that's working against you.
"This generation trap that they call my hood / Liquor store pawn shop sell my goods / Everybody scrambling to make ends meet / Shotgun shotgun where's my heat.
After a two year gap in releases, Brandon dropped 'Get On' and today he drops 'Tryin'' which both resume the extremely high quality of his discography to date. But despite his rich gift of storytelling and musicality, it hasn’t yet translated commercially.
At the time of writing, he has 88,000 monthly Spotify listeners and doesn’t have a song with over two million streams.
While these are encouraging signs, they aren’t even close to the numbers I believe he is capable of. I think he’s a lucky break away from the big time. If his team around him are able to market his music creatively and successfully, you too, along with me can also think "I told ya so" in the near future when he blows up.
You can hear Brandon Banks on George FM Chillsville: 6am - 12pm and 8pm to midnight Sundays, or download ROVA and check out the Chillsville Music Plus station, where it’s Chillsville 24/7.