Ralph - "Young Hearts Run Free"
If Sade & Stevie Nicks & Donna Summer had a love child... you'd get Ralph. I heard this song on the 4th of July and just couldn't get over how well this cover was done. Nostalgic but new, fresh but with an homage to the original, fun and sexy all at once, this song will get your groove going no matter where you are.
Raffa Weyman is a classically trained vocalist from Toronto's collegial (read: student swarmed) Annex neighborhood. She lives a block over from her parent's place in a house filled with creatives. Her best friend and roommate, Gemma Warren, directed the dreamy, spa haven video for "Tease." Working in the Toronto music scene for several years, RALPH tells me that this project is a product of the city's creative west end community; talking about how Toronto Women in Music—a group that began on Facebook by a handful of other female-identifying musicians in the city living in the downtown core—have helped her. The group facilitates networking, promotes conversation, and general sharing and support for women, two-spirited, and non-binary people in Toronto and fortunately where RALPH met her manager. It's also through this community she's been able to support herself and others by doing some backup singing, appearing in music videos, and costume design, to name a few. "Now it's really great because it's come full circle and those people are helping me," she says.
In the same vein as Lorde, Charlie XCX, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and many other solo performers, the duality of personalities a pop act needs to assume is not lost on RALPH. Where chart dominance was the sole predictor of success in pop's previous decades, it's now social media and how your listeners can connect with you on a more (superficially) personal level that help bear the mark of success. "I want to have a presence. I want people to feel like they know me and respect me," she tells me. In an article for The Creator Class she wrote, "Raffa (me) and RALPH (my creative alter-ego) are closely linked, but Ralph is a little more adventurous. When I'm performing, I get to tap into a part of my personality that is less careful, less contained." RALPH, hesitating as she says it to me, calls herself a brand. She is very in control of this—she consciously chooses images of herself that support her aesthetic goal. Some pop stars have a vice grip on their image (Taylor Swift or Beyonce, for example), which RALPH argues is more of a positive attribute than not, especially for someone who is so new to the pop game. "I am an entrepreneur. I am a business. I am my own business now. So, yes, I am an artist and I have a team behind me who are doing that for me but I am interested in my own success," she says. "I think that you do have to be aware of how important personal branding and cohesiveness is nowadays in your Instagram or your press photos or videos. People want to feel like they can rely on you."
She's locking down her image, nailing down her sound, and commanding an ever growing audience. It's no wonder, with incredible original material, and effervescent hit covers like this, that she's holding on to that rising star.
So today, with my hands in the air, I choose Ralph's cover of "Young Hearts Run Free" as my, let it crack open, why not today, smile with your whole heart, song for a, from the tips of my toes, lemon yellow sunshine, eyes full of fireworks Thursday.