With the momentum she’s built in the past several years, Sheléa Frazier (who goes by her first name professionally) could have taken the easy way out. A singer/songwriter/keyboardist with serious chops, she owed her initial buzz to a viral YouTube video in which she sang a medley of Whitney Houston songs. Since then she’s released a highly touted debut album, performed at the White House and Kennedy Center, starred in her own PBS concert special (presented by Quincy Jones) and a Lifetime TV film about gospel singers, and more.
With the wind at her back, continuing straight down the mainstream pop-R&B route would have made some sense, but instead Sheléa chose to record an entire CD’s worth of songs (some previously unrecorded) written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the Oscar-winning married couple whose lyrics to songs such as “The Way We Were,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” have earned them induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
For the recording, Sheléa called upon several highly placed friends for assistance, among them Stevie Wonder, whom she calls a mentor. Wonder offers a harmonica solo on the set-opening title track that sets the tone for a spirited set of mostly danceable soul and lushly orchestrated ballads. Sheléa is comfortable within a variety of styles—she swings on “Make Me Rainbows,” glides smoothly on the ballad “Moonlight” (featuring Kirk Whalum), and masters the art of a cappella harmony singing on “You’re Not Alone” (she has some help there from Take 6)—and beholden to none. Sheléa’s career is still young enough that she’s comfortable feeling her way around. With any luck, she’ll resist the temptation to stay inside any box and continue to reach as she settles into her music.