The R&B singer revitalizes her career with new release "Loving U Blind."
Elle Varner returns with her first single in four years.
October 10, 2018 | Elle Varner is a legend in her own right. She made a splash in the early '10s with "Only Wanna Give It to You," alongside rapper J. Cole. It quickly became a Top 20 hit on Billboard and signaled big things were coming for the then-burgeoning R&B star. But things didn't exactly go as planned.
She was first signed to the J Label, which was home to such trendsetters as Alicia Keys, Marsha Ambrosius, and Jazmine Sullivan. When the company folded, Varner was moved over to RCA. In early 2012, her follow-up single "Refill" dropped, with a mixtape called Conversational Lush arriving soon after. It was all primer for her impressive debut album, Perfectly Imperfect, which launched later that summer to great fanfare. The record debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
Things seemed to completely derail after that. In 2014, Varner released a pair of singles, "Don't Wanna Dance" and "F*ck It All." The accompanying album was shelved, and she soon stepped away from the spotlight to reassess her life and priorities.
Popdust Live | Elle Varner youtu.be
Yet at the end of September 2018, Varner reemerged stronger for her journey with a new single called "Loving U Blind," an acoustic guitar-based ballad. Her voice is raw and lingers on the broken spirit, but delivered with an empowering message.
During a stop into our office, she discussed the past six years since her last full-length studio album. "I've been living, learning, growing, becoming a woman, getting my stripes in this industry," she tells Popdust. "It's glamorous on the outside, but on the inside, it can be very tough. But there's no artist that's ever sustained a career that hasn't been through ups and downs."
She continues, "So, I'm very proud of myself for making it through. I'm extremely grateful to God, to everyone who has supported me, my fans, people in the industry who have supported me through a tough time."
Elle Varner/Music video screenshot
Varner was born into a family of industry vets and proves she's got just as much talent. Her mother performed as a background vocalist for Barry White for a number of years and wrote with such pillars as Rahsaan Patterson and Tevin Campbell. Meanwhile, Varner's father was a prominent producer whose credits include Kool & the Gang, Will Downing, and Gerald Alston.
"Loving U Blind" is a rush of emotions. Varner has never sounded so passionate in her work, and influences woven into the fabric of her new song include Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Dusty Springfield, and Ella Fitzgerald. However, her style remains uniquely her own. "I don't know how much more I can take," she sings. She references not only her journey over the past few years but her new-found sense of worth.
With esteemed emcee Deascent, Varner talks about her new single "Loving U Blind," the roller coaster of the industry, her hiatus, her new label 212 Entertainment, and personal growth. Watch the interview above.
Loving U Blind
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Every year, there are more than 100 songs that are worthy of being included in a Top 100 Songs of the Year pop list, but once you get through all the songs you have to include from all of your major stars—your Taylor Swifts, your Rihannas, your Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl Citys—100 just isn't as big a number as it seems like it should be. Therefore, there are always a handful of artists and songs that get unjustly snubbed in a Top 100 list.
Here's a playlist of ten awesome songs we just couldn't find the room for this year. Sorry guys—it wasn't you, it was us.
DANNY BROWN, "GROWN UP"
A short, sweet look back from one of hip-hop's greatest characters of recent years on his truant younger days, reflecting on how things turned out way better for him than anyone could have imagined (concluding on the song's hook, "Who ever thought I'd be the greatest growing up?" One of the year's most adorable music videos helped this one seem even more charming.
BRAD PAISLEY, "SOUTHERN COMFORT ZONE"
NASCAR broadcast and Jeff Foxworthy samples kick off Brad Paisley's epic ode to his land below the Mason-Dixon line, which both pays tribute to the region's many virtues and (duh) comforts, but also acknowledges that Paisley "can't see this world unless I go / Outside my southern comfort zone." (Though he qualifies that by saying "I know the road I leave on / It will always bring me back." At over five minutes in length, and encompassing gospel choirs and guitar solos and a steadily crescendoing emotional swell, "Zone" is one of the most ambitious country songs of recent years, and also one of the most satisfying.
BAT FOR LASHES, "LAURA"
The lead single and theatrical centerpiece of Natasha Khan's (a.k.a. Bat for Lashes) acclaimed The Haunted Man, "Laura" is an absolute showstopper, with dolorous piano and strings providing the appropriately dramatic backdrop as Khan wails "You're the train that crashed my heart / You're the glitter in the dark / Oooh Laura / You're more than a superstar!" Is it about Laura Palmer, murdered vixen from '90s TV show Twin Peaks, as theorized by some? Doesn't really matter all that much.
FUTURE FEAT. DIDDY & LUDACRIS, "SAME DAMN TIME" (REMIX)
How 'bout Future? How 'bout Diddy? AT THE SAME DAMN TIME! Future already had one of the hip-hop hooks of the decade with his "Same Damn Time" single, but the Diddy-and-Ludacris-featuring remix—always a good idea, by the way, even for the latest Train or Karmin single—just takes it to the next level. "See sometimes in life, these motherfuckers take your kindness for weakness," Diddy rhapsodizes on the intro. "So sometimes in life, you just gotta blow their motherfuckin' faces off." Too true, Sean.
PORTER ROBINSON, "LANGUAGE"
One of EDM's most talented wunderkinds—they just make 'em younger and younger these days, don't they?—20-year-old Porter Robinson crafted one of house's great opuses this year with "Language," with gloriously contrasting layers of synth and piano hooks making the vocal that eventually comes in halfway thorugh the song's six-minute runtime totally superfluous. Look out for this guy in 2013.
For more jams that just missed our Top 100, including Kirko Bangz and the best new song from a TV show this year, click NEXT.
POOLSIDE, "SLOW DOWN"
As intense and uplfiting as "Language" is, that's about how laid back and chill-inducing Poolside's "Slow Down" is. The song's sparse lyrics are very explicit towards this message—"Slow / Don't move so fast / Slow down / Let this feeling last / Relax..."—but you don't even need the lyrics to tell you that, the song's synths and screwed-down beat are so fucking tranquil. "Slow Down" the audio equivalent of one of those dumb Corona commercials—no matter where you are or what you're doing, you're unwinding at the beach (or pool, we suppose) whenever listening.
ELLE VARNER, "REFILL"
One of the year's most indelible and singular R&B singles, largely thanks to the presence of an extremely unconventional instrument providing the song's main hook—is that actually a fiddle buzzing away on Elle's slow jam? Against all odds, it works beautifully, helped by Elle's ecstatic, loved-up vocal, and a predictably excellent, lush beat from the underrated Andrew "Pop" Wansel. Perhaps 2013 will be the year of the Hot 97 Hoedown? We're excited.
CONNIE BRITTON & HAYDEN PANETTIERE, "WRONG SONG"
The music on Nashville has been generally up and down between convincing would-be country hits and obvious fictional creations missing a crucial element or two for legit 21st-century mainstream country, but best of all was the first duet between the series' two stars, Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), the kiss-off anthem "Wrong Song." Somewhat ironically, Panettiere (who plays the show's ambitious-but-unproven up-and-comer) far outperforms Britton (the show's established elder statesman), but the song is good enough to carry both artists, a believably clever and exhilarating tune assuring a cheating ex that if he's expecting the two to sing a "Stand By Your Man" type ode, "you've got the wrong song."
KIRKO BANGZ, "DRANK IN MY CUP"
An appropriately woozy, hypnotic jam given the subject matter, Kirko Bangz already seems to be something of an afterthought in the hip-hop community, but "Drank" will always guarantee him a place in the hearts of 2010s hip-hop fans, with one of the year's most enjoyable stoner jams. "I ain't trying to love you, baby, just fuck you instead." Honestly always appreciated, Kirko.
WALK THE MOON, "ANNA SUN"
If you wanted to bet on a pop/rock group to break out in the Neon Trees or fun. style over the next few years, Walk the Moon would probably be a good value, with an enormous sound, an impressively refined pop sensibility, and perhaps most importantly, the backing of a major label in RCA. "Anna Sun" shows how close they already are, with one of the year's most rousing choruses: "Do you know this house is falling apart / Can I say this house is falling apart / We got no money but we got a heart / We're gonna rattle this ghost town!" They'll be used a lot on whatever MTV's next I Just Want My Pants Back-type attempt at original programming is, anyway.
Got another couple songs you were angry were excluded from our Top 100? Think "Same Damn Time" should've been top 20, minimum? Tell us about it in the comments section.