Let Cleo Sol’s “Rose in The Dark” Be Your Cozy Oasis

“I’m a little wiser, baby
I’m a little kinder, baby
After all these years, it’s time to let you know
See, I learned some things, my baby
Finally spread my wings to save me
Yes, I lost myself, that’s why I had to go

Then the light came up, baby
Right after I forgave me
And I prayed so hard, I thought I’d lose my mind
I’m a little stronger, baby
Took a little longer, maybe
Tell my younger self to enjoy the ride”

Rose in The Dark

In a year that has been anything but easy, Cleo Sol’s new album Rose in The Dark creates a cozy haven of dreamy and soulful rhythms.

The London native collaborated with producer Inflo— who has worked with Michael Kiwanuka— to create the 11-track album. Released in late March 2020 during the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Sol struggled with whether the timing was right.

In a handwritten note on her Instagram account she wrote that ultimately she decided to release because her art is bigger than just her:

“My album is here for you to listen to, to uplift you, move you or be your backing track vibes whilst we are all moving through this moment.”

Cleo Sol

With an aim to uplift, it is clear why she chose Rose in The Dark as the song for which the album is named after: the track has a nostalgic feel, with a flowing beat and sweet vocals that are as comforting as a spoonful of honey.

Sol grew up in a musical family passionate about reggae, jazz, and Motown. This upbringing weaves itself into the DNA of her album, which grounds itself in the sounds of 1970s jazz and old school soul. Like in her 2018 EP Winter Songs and 2019 singles One and Sweet Blue, this album is wonderfully mellow. Her voice has a timeless quality, as if it could be born out of any decade.   

Rewind resonates with this retro feel; it is effortlessly cool, breezy and brief. The gorgeous finale Her Light has vintage vibes as well, with an upbeat flute and clear piano keys that elevate this song about change, intuition, and honesty.

In Young Love reggae notes creates a soothing chillness, like sipping wine outside on a summer night. During the chorus Sol holds hypnotizing high notes while singing “young love don’t ever waste your life / I see that you’re searching for peace of mind.”

“I want you to value your light.”

Young Love

There is an interesting balance between light and dark in this album, the bright instrumentals and Sol’s effervescent voice contrasting with the recordings’ velvety nighttime ambiance. After all, you can’t have light without darkness; there is always a balance between day and night, joy and heartbreak, courage and fear, faith and hopelessness.

She emphasizes this interconnection in numerous tracks. For instance, in Her Light she sings “without night the sun couldn’t show you her light,” and in Butterfly she says “butterfly, lost in the night / running out of faith but your wings are still bright.” She draws on this imagery of bright wings against a dark sky as a metaphor for the strength of spirit, urging the person in the song not to give up.

Considering that “sol” means “sun,” it is no wonder that light is a strong motif in Sol’s album. Both in the luminous, airy listening experience and in the poetry of her lyrics.

Light here is a metaphor for faith, honesty, love and growth. Like a rose in the dark, something beautiful can bloom if you make belief— in yourself, in others, in a higher purpose— your light (Shine).  

Piper Anderson

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