Alright it’s time to shine a spotlight on one of North Carolina’s own, Kelsey Lu. Hailing from Charlotte, she grew up in a strictly religious household before attending UNC School of the Arts. In short, she’s about as Carolinian as a musician can be.
So, from the above album cover (cropped for nudity) you might expect an R&B singer, or perhaps some kind of melodic indie rocker, but at the risk of disappointing you, Lu fits somewhere in the realm of baroque pop. Yes, that UNCSA education was apparently in classical cello, because Lu is basically inseparable from the instrument. Her music weaves in a variety of strings including viola and violin, supplementing thoughtfully written songs that border on spoken word at times. One word that would not describe her, however, is orchestral, as her arrangements are incredibly sparse, rarely doubling more than one instrument besides her voice, and eschewing chords. The result is somewhat expiriemental, while remaining accesible
If classical isn’t really your thing, still give Kelsey Lu a shot, because the restrained conservatism of her upbringing and stylistic influences are not reflected in her music. She gave one anecdote of listening to 36 Mafia in her sister’s car in secret. Side note, while I can’t speak as to whether that story represents the community at large, it did make me laugh for how much it fits the profile of most Charlottean Jehovah’s Witnesses I’ve met. Her rebellious nature is not just targeted at her roots though; she turns a critical yet loving eye to the outside world. Her 2019 album “Blood” targets hippies, art school grads, and her parents’ generation all in the first song. Her music is in equal measure restrained and rebellious, and an excellent entry in our state’s cultural tapestry.