Tafari Anthony's new single "No Good" is about starting over.
"That's why I had to leave," sings Tafari Anthony in the chorus of his euphoric new single, "No Good." "Cause you're no good for me."
That realization—so simple, yet so difficult—is the beginning of a shift that so many of us need to undergo. After all, healing and change can't happen without leaving behind everything that holds us back.
"No Good" is ecstatic, a pop jam for the ages and for our moment. It feels like the perfect song to blast from our rooftops as we hopefully slide towards a 2021 that's better than 2020, or as we finally leave the unpleasant quarantine situation we've been stagnating in for...well, hopefully for another quarantine in a different place.
Hailing from Toronto, Anthony is known for his awe-inspiring vocals (his name, Tafari, means "He who inspires awe"). In 2020, he released two anthemic pop tracks—"Centerfold" and "Live In a Dream." Now he's lent his talents to yet another extraordinary single: the magnetic "No Good."
In part inspired by the success he experienced thanks to earlier releases, "No Good" is about releasing yourself from the maze of abuse, low self-esteem or anything the might hold you back. Sometimes we stay in relationships or situations that don't serve us for far too long, but there's nothing like getting out and starting again. "It takes a lot of self-reflection to be able to realize these patterns in ourselves and even more to get out of them once we are aware," Tafari says. "Personally, I often let people treat me like sh*t for way longer than I should—but once I'm done, I'm done." With its infectious hook and glittering soundscape, "No Good" sounds as beautiful as starting fresh feels.
POPDUST: You spent some time "creating your own personal soundscape" but decided to return to pop. What was this personal soundscape and what brought you back to pop music?
TAFARI ANTHONY: I think I fought my pop sensibilities for a long time because I was scared. Obviously being a black man with a soulful voice, immediately I'm expected to just sing straight up R&B. But I grew up on so much more than that, so for me it has been super important to incorporate my experiences and the sounds that shaped my musical ear into my music.
Have you always been making music? What's your musical and songwriting process?
Both of my parents were involved in music growing up. So, once they discovered I could sing that was that! They would book me in studio sessions and take me to shows to see what it was all about. But I found because there was no fight to do it that I maybe took it for granted. It wasn't until I moved away and went to college that I really found my own passion for music without the influence of my parents. It was truly the first time I realized for myself that music was what I wanted to do with my life.
My songwriting process is very open. I don't have a specific formula for how I'm going to write music when I start. For me, I think this is super important because it allows me to be fully open with what each session might bring. For the most part, I will usually start with either getting music from a producer or starting with some chords and mumbling some melodies over them. Once I get something down then I start dissecting it—pulling out any words I may have mumbled and refining any melodies that seem to work well or grab me. Other times I may be inspired by a one-liner I had written down in my notes and will pull a song together from that.
Tafari Anthony - Centerfold (Official Video) www.youtube.com
You have such an incredible singing voice—it's so powerful, and the range and harmonies are magnificent. What's your favorite part about singing?
Well, thank you! My favorite part about singing is seeing and hearing the reactions from people. I love that the voice gets such an emotional and personal response from the audience. I just do my best to make sure that I'm emoting and expressing what I'm feeling while singing. They may not fully get where my intention is coming from, but I think as long as I'm feeling something as I'm singing, people will respond to it in their own way.
Who are your musical inspirations? What about them do you want to emulate or embody in your own work?
I've been largely inspired by artists that are able to do what they do in any genre. Artists like Prince, John Legend, Brandy, and Rihanna are great at genre-bending and still having a very cohesive sound.
I'm inspired by so many genres and so many different artists that it would seem crazy to me to just kind of settle on one. At the end of the day, the songs can all have a very different feel, but what's going to tie them together is my voice and my stories.
Your single "No Good" is about how we're sometimes drawn to (and stay in) relationships we know are bad for us. Why do you think we as humans are so drawn to relationships (or politicians) that may not be good for us?
I think it's entertaining. That's the short answer. We grow up in a society where if something is going well, or things are just fine, that seems to be a problem. But if you have drama, or going through some kind of turmoil, then all of a sudden you seem way more interesting. So, I think these relationships, and politicians, draw us in because we want to be entertained.
Tafari Anthony - No Good (Official Video) www.youtube.com
The song is also about recognizing patterns and leaving negative relationships. What do you do in order to take care of yourself and heal and gain the strength to leave?
Honestly, this has been a huge life lesson for me. I haven't always been the best at just letting negativity go. But once I realized exactly how much of my energy it was draining, it was crucial for me to find some kind of solution. I've gotten better at noticing patterns, and then I have a saying: "once I know who you are, I know how to deal with you."
And to me what that means is, I can pretty much deal with anybody because I will believe you when you show me who you are and won't try to see what I want to see. I think adopting this mentality has allowed me to keep my life clearer of negative energy and be more aware of the signs and whether or not I feel I want to give any of my energy to a person or situation.
"No Good" is such a powerful and infectious anthem—was there a moment you knew it was a song you had to put out?
Actually, yes! After I wrote the song, I had sent the demo to a couple friends who I trusted would give me their honest feedback. I don't often send out demos moments after they're finished. But I had felt like there was something about this one that I was really drawn to, and I just needed to make sure that it wasn't just me. Everyone had pretty much the same response and it was very positive. I performed it a couple times live to audiences who had never heard it before and I could also feel that energy in the room. It was such a strong feeling that I knew the song would be one that I'd have to finish up and release.
What's next for you? What are your musical plans for the future, or upcoming releases, or thoughts about the future in general?
Well…I'm gearing up now for the release of my EP called The Way You See Me, which is coming out on November 20th! I'm very excited about this project. This is the first time where I feel like I've gotten my sound to a point that I've always been trying to reach, and so I'm very proud of this body of work. I can't wait to see how people take this one into their lives! As for the future in general... I really hope we get some kind of positive light soon so that we can start to heal.
If you could see your music have one effect on people and the world, what would it be?
I would hope that it would inspire people to be less afraid of expressing themselves, less afraid of being who you are, and less afraid of holding back as to not offend anybody. You can still be kind and speak your truth.