The landscape of Dancehall music has changed a lot since the golden ages of the 90s and 2000s. Romance, for instance, has changed appearance in the cultural context and the music has transformed as well for better or worse. Vanessa Bling’s romantic music set her aside as a defining artist during the 2000s. She became a key balancing element to the heavy violence that had started to become characteristic within the music. But her romance was not just toward her paramore, it was often directed toward herself or even God. At the time, Bling was one of the only artists actually talking about love in an honest and culturally accurate way.
Her breakout hit, the iconic One Man was released in 2011, to much acclaim. Dedication was a sentiment that the song helped to popularize within Jamaican romantic life. The following year Bling released another slap that only reinforced her relationship sentiments, Everything Fi Hold Him. Slowly she began to set a bar as the standard for not just quality vocals and music but also substance when it comes to relationship content.
Today, Bling still enjoys excellent reception for the brand of music she established. “The more you grow the more you learn, things and times change. Everyday you see something new. But I’ve never changed my way. Vanessa Bling stick to Vanessa Bling. I stick to what I believe in,” she told DancehallMag in a recent interview. Artists believing in what they’re doing might actually be rare these days, but it’s an essential element for sustenance once they leave the white-hot stages of a career.
Speaking of stages, Bling fortunately has been active and successful for such a long time that her journeys are strictly on smooth roads. “It’s more comfortable now because I get used to the road, the running. Even though certain stuff like getting on the stage never feels old. So I always have that feeling inside like–it just–I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just always there. But yea I’m very comfortable right now, I know what to do, what not to do,” she said with a pleased smile. In a genre that’s still underdeveloped in many ways, knowing what to do, and what not to, could be the make or break of an artist.
Although her releases like Have Mercy On Me Oh Lord, Future Guaranteed, or Side Chick, were moving in the street, Vanessa did what she could to avoid interviews for a long time, “I think interviews should be fun, and sometimes you do interviews and they twist your words. I don’t like my words to be twisted, just put it out as I say it.” Valid reasons for avoiding the media. Still, Bling’s conservative nature goes beyond her media appearance, or lack thereof. It turns out that the Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew native, is in fact, introverted. A trait that has helped to keep her out of the drama.
“It’s so funny even my mother always say she nuh know where she got me from because I’m so secretive. I don’t think I’m secretive, I think I’m just the type of person like–this may sound weird but I don’t see the need of telling somebody my problems,” shrugs Vanessa as she opens up about her stoic nature.
“The best person to tell is the lord. I’m the type of person I will just sit in my home and I will just talk to God.” A type of gratitude most of us can understand, but given that her earliest years singing and honing her voice in the church; Bling’s appreciation for prayer is reasonable. “But I’ve been like this, even growing up with my grandmother. Sometimes my cousins live next door and they don’t even know that I’m at home. Because I’m that type of person I like to be by myself.” says Bling, and it makes sense, her appearance in the media has been minimal to say the least and solely due to her own choices.
Her latest single Beautiful, which she admits is currently her favorite, reinforces another strong element in her music; empowerment. In this new era of media and tech; confidence is a hard-won commodity. The toxic culture of comparison is the new norm, all whilst the feeds of some of the people we compare ourselves to, are curated with strictly the best of times. This high bar affects the general confidence of women on a global scale and Bling’s music is making strides by speaking to that issue.
“My self esteem is very high. I love myself very much. I love who I am. My song beautiful, I really do that song for women that don’t think they have a high self-esteem. So for instance, you wake up in the morning and feel a little pimples or– you know? You feel like you’re not beautiful anymore. But you really don’t have to have make up, you don’t have to be fat, it doesn’t matter how you look, you are still beautiful. I want women to feel that way, it doesn’t matter how you look, love yourself. You’re still beautiful.”
Despite her introverted nature, Bling manages to keep her ear to the ground enough to collaborate with some really talented artists from time to time. Most notable is her recent single with the up and coming reggae dancehall star Dyani, titled Soul Tied. The intricate details of her decision process when collaborating remains a mystery but Gaza alumni did reveal, “For me it doesn’t matter if you are the talk of the town or not. Once you’re talented, I’m going to put my talent with your talent to bring greatness. Talent, but aso vibe. So I don’t care who is hot, it’s not about that for me.”
Bling’s long and illustrious catalog affords her the luxury of taking her time with music. There is no need to release in tandem with the fast-paced music cycle. But she does have a plan and it does include more new music.
“I’m working on my album so I’m very grateful for that, you’re the first one to get this.” she said before going silent, unwilling to give up anymore details. “I have a lot of singles coming out. I have the video for the song with myself and Dyani. My tour just started. I’ll be in Dubai, Israel, New York–if I start I won’t end so just look out for me. You can keep up with my updates @realvanessabling.”