What A Devastating Turn of Events

What A Devastating Turn of Events

“I have to write about how I feel,” Rachel Chinouriri tells Apple Music. “If I don’t feel it or can’t relate to it, I can’t write about it.” Since breaking out in 2022 with viral track “So My Darling,” the South London singer-songwriter has done just that, penning bittersweet indie bops and devastating ballads that have been fueled, most often, by stories of heartache. You’ll find plenty of that on this debut album, but Chinouriri also goes deeper, with songs about self-contempt, loss, grief, and feeling like you don’t belong right when you’re supposed to be killing it (see “The Hills,” her cathartic exhale about a five-week songwriting trip to LA, which left her feeling lonely, under pressure, and creatively stumped). For Chinouriri, What a Devastating Turn of Events was shaped by “the journey of being in your early twenties. You finally leave home and then you are kind of becoming an adult, but you don’t really feel like an adult,” she says. “You’re still looking at the grown-ups to give you advice, but you are the grown-up. It is a weird journey of trying to discover yourself. Being able to feel and then turn it into song—it’s a privilege to have that as a gift.” But What a Devastating Turn of Events also feels rooted in much more than just a bumpy life transition, and Chinouriri’s lyricism is laced with far more wisdom than most people can apply to those chaotic early-twenties years. Either way, the singer-songwriter wanted her debut to capture what it’s like to be shattered by a sudden event. And so, the record opens with sharp-witted, mostly upbeat indie-pop moments (plus some “wonky” bits, as Chinouriri puts it), before the crushing title track—written after the singer-songwriter’s cousin tragically took her own life—shifts this album, and its creator, on its axis. What follows are some of Chinouriri’s most raw, arresting songs yet. “When death happens, it does turn your entire world upside down,” she says. “It might not even be death, it might just be something that happens. And sometimes you don’t realize how much you have until something major happens. Then you realize, ‘Damn, I’ve wasted so much time bothering about stuff that doesn’t matter.’ Turning points can either make or break people.” This album ends on Chinouriri’s own turning point: “Pocket,” a sweet song about new, better love that Chinouriri promised she’d give to the person who finally allowed her to feel it, followed by her acoustic version of “So My Darling,” the song that started this wild ride in the first place. Here, Chinouriri takes us through her debut, track by track. “Garden of Eden” “I wrote this after my big LA trip feeling like, ‘This [the UK] is home for me.’ I’m just adamant I want a house in the countryside. Where I grew up in Croydon isn’t that, but it was quiet, and I would always hear birds and see fields and grass. We were in a room [in a studio in the UK countryside, where Chinouriri went after LA] and would always have the recording on, and the birds were that loud. I was like, ‘Let’s just maybe make it a soundscape where you’re just falling into this situation.’ It’s setting the scene.” “The Hills” “We’ve left the Garden of Eden now and I’m like, ‘Right, I don’t belong here.’ The music video shows [me], a Black woman, walking across some flags, and people have said, ‘Oh, she’s talking about how she doesn’t belong in the UK,’ but I’m actually talking about how much I do belong. It’s almost seeing those street parties where they’ve got all the flags and being like, ‘I’m as English as you guys, so I belong here and I’ll be staying here whether you like it or not.’ The song is definitely a headbanging, screaming moment—it has a bit of an American-boy-band-in-a-basement, kids-in-a-garage vibe. It felt like a relief to have something after a trip where we didn’t have much, especially after five weeks.” “Never Need Me” “After I wrote this, I didn’t even send it to the label. A few days later, I was at a festival and my manager came to me and said, ‘Why didn’t you send us this song? Oli [Bayston, one of the song’s co-writers] sent it to us.’ I said, ‘I don’t like it, I think it’s a terrible song.’ I think it was because of its meaning. And in the session, I was just so angry and annoyed and in such an agitated mood. I felt uninspired. But later, I said, ‘If I can do it however I want, I’ll finish the song.’ So I went to [songwriter] Glen Roberts and changed all the production—I was thinking Kings of Leon and heavy guitars.” “My Everything” “This song is about giving your all to everyone. My project before this album, Four° in Winter, was very experimental and wonky. I knew I was hitting some pop territories with this album, but I think there are still wonky elements to me. I really love Ladysmith Black Mambazo and how they use their voice almost as the instruments. I just liked being in the studio and coming up with weird sounds with my voice. I don’t even want to know how many vocal tracks are on that—but it was a lot! I don’t know if people will like it, but I wanted to show all the different parts of who I am.” “All I Ever Asked” “Again, I didn’t want it on the album. But now I realize this song is important and a way people discovered me [it was a single in 2022]. I think I’m actually quite a dark person because I’m a Scorpio. Whether you believe in star signs or not, I’ve always gravitated towards dark lyrics to a point where I don’t think sad lyrics really hit me anymore. But there’s also a degree of making light of situations. Because as much as [what inspired this song] is sad, it’s also like, ‘You’ll live. He was an asshole. There are plenty more people you can meet in this world.’ There’s light that can come to those situations.” “It Is What It Is” “When I was doing [the speak-singing here], I was like, ‘Maybe I’m going to sound a bit like a loser.’ I’m not really rapping, I’m talking, and then obviously I have this English accent. I don’t want to say I have a boring voice, but when I’m speaking, I think I sound quite monotone. But what I’m saying is, ‘You are a fucking arsehole.’ This one’s for my girls and boys who have definitely felt this multiple times. Mae Muller is on this track. She is that person who will be like, ‘Absolutely not.’ I’ll go out and look at someone slightly questionable and be like, ‘I fancy him.’ She’ll go to the bathroom and be like, ‘Rachel, love you so much. No, no, you’re not doing that.’ And I’ll be like, ‘OK.’” “Dumb Bitch Juice” “This was very much Amy Winehouse-inspired—I know it’s not Amy Winehouse at all, but she had this ability to sing in quite a free and melodic way, but you can hear every single thing she says. When I wrote this, I was like, ‘I’m here to insult today.’ Not just insulting someone else—insulting myself too. Because sometimes men are terrible, but there’s also a degree of ‘You have allowed someone to treat you like that.’ Of course I’ve been heartbroken by an absolute idiot because I’m drinking dumb bitch juice!” “What a Devastating Turn of Events” “All my siblings were born in Africa, I’m the only one who was born in the UK. There’s a set of relatives who know I exist, but I’ve not met most of them—I have no clue who they are, but my siblings grew up with them. And when she [Chinouriri’s cousin, the subject of this song] died, my siblings were devastated. I was sad about someone I didn’t know. I constantly thought about it and wondered how it had happened. I had gone through something similar; being able to write about it has been kind of helpful for me to understand my own situation and stuff that I’ve gone through. Sonically, I never thought we needed a big chorus. It’s a different verse and different chorus every single time. Then there’s just this kind of chanting thing—I think that’s maybe where my African influence is coming, the marching and the pace of the drum and everyone singing as a group. We all sat in the studio with a mic and just screamed, ‘What a devastating turn of events.’ I think there’s a degree of sorrow that comes along, kind of trudging through this very sad story. This is a very important one.” “My Blood” “I wanted a song where there’s not necessarily continuation, but which speaks about things which people might do as a cry for help. You should always watch when things like that happen to people. I went through a phase where I was pulling out my own hair—it was a stress thing. It started making me think about when I was younger and there was self-harm things. It was visualizing looking in a mirror and being like, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ But it’s also these invisible wounds. The strings here add so much to the song—the cinematic-ness of it is definitely influenced by Daughter. I wanted to get people to feel. It sounds very sad from top to bottom, but I hope people listen to it and think, ‘Wow.’” “Robbed” “There was a baby in our family who passed away, and I felt like I was robbed of them. I was a bit more poetic in this song, but it’s almost considering people I’d not met that had such a massive effect on me. You can be robbed of time sometimes, with people or family. When stuff like that happens, the people around you are always like, ‘It’ll be OK. I’m sorry that happened.’ And actually, sometimes it’s OK to just be like, ‘That was fucking shit. That was horrible and this is unfair.’ That was the kind of emotion I wanted to translate in these songs.” “Cold Call” “I was really inspired by Coldplay’s ‘Politik.’ It’s just mind-blowing. I’m quite obsessed with Coldplay and I asked my team to show them the song. I know that they liked it—it meant a lot. They are my inspiration for a lot of things. I think it feels like a universal song. It’s kind of like, ‘I’ve had enough of this now, I’m not doing that anymore.’” “I Hate Myself” “I like how this ends with me reflecting on the positive. I’ve felt some very negative things, which I’ve been lucky enough to stop in their tracks. I mean, ‘a victim of your mind’ is one of the lyrics here. I wrote this with [producer and songwriter] Jonah Summerfield and he was like, ‘Oh, this is pretty deep.’ But sometimes when you put your thoughts on paper, you can read it back and think, ‘That was ridiculous.’ I looked back at this and thought, ‘That was a really stupid thing for me to even put myself through.’ You have to learn to love yourself—and hope that as a society we can really unlearn the treatment of people for being different sizes. Being able to write music has been a combination of me unlearning and learning so much about myself. And I think I can see how my self-esteem really skyrocketed the song in many ways.” “Pocket” “When I wrote this, I’d gone through all my phases of being like, ‘Men are trash, men are toxic.’ Then I was kind of like, ‘Well that’s just BS. I was just choosing terrible men. And there are actually nice ones if you allow yourself to be loved. So I’m going to write a song about how I would like to be loved.’ I thought, ‘When I find someone, I’m going to give them this song.’ And when I started dating my boyfriend, I said, ‘There’s this song I have.’” “So My Darling (Acoustic)” “The song is like six years old, so it’s a nostalgic way to end the album. You’ve gone through this journey of [mostly] new songs, and then you get thrown back into one that everyone knows. I wanted the whole album to sound and feel nostalgic for being a Black Brit, so to end on something nostalgic for the fans was really important. I think the whole album is very nostalgic of maybe my home life, but for the fans, it’s nostalgic for them.”

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