"Red Flags" by Abz WinterReview
Out next week (though please consider pre-saving your copy right now, as such action helps artists) is the latest Abz Winter single and its name is "Red Flags".
Although I'm super wary of pronouncing any song to be an artist's "best", Abz is braver than me & has done so on her own behalf in relation to this one. Since I have no desire to quarrel with her & respect her judgement, I'm happy to put that on the record that here & now.
It's not easy being an artist trying to build a career. On one hand, building a strong sense of character & identity is pretty essential: I'm sure it must be taught on courses as "brand identity" or similar. On the other hand, if you get taken prisoner by that, the fickle voices in the media will condemn you for lack of variety. Balancing these two apparently irreconcilable needs may never be entirely possible, but when you have the determination & capacity for hard work which Abz has always displayed, then it won't be for want of trying.
"Red Flags" is thus another step forwards artistically, without letting go of the legacy she's put so much effort into creating. We have the signature feistiness but it's being directing & focussed within a new context & opened out into something for many to identify with, rather than whichever specific individual may have originally inspired the lyric. As ever, it's probably best if I report the song's creator's own words on this point: "…"Red Flags" is written about being in a relationship with someone with narcissistic tendencies. Even though all the signals are apparent until you piece them together, you can't move on - but once you realise, you get the hell out!"
Written (naturally) by Abz herself & produced by Imad Salhi, "Red Flags" continues to showcase how excellent her ability to write original music is: something she has possessed since I first heard her work & an attribute which possibly I don't draw enough attention to in my reviews. I guess the spotlight falls more frequently on her words, and probably they do grab the attention first (not least due to the dynamism of her vocals in delivering them live & on record), but to be able to come up with fresh tunes so regularly (and she has sustained that now for several years) is something of a gift. No wonder other artists appear to be wanting to emulate her, though perhaps not always with quite the array of talents the irrepressible & unique Abz has.
Musically, Abz has always kept the dance imperative at the forefront of her writing and it would be naïve not to assume that such a factor is high in her creative decisions. That said, in live performance, although working sometimes with backing tapes (at least to begin with), she has also gone for single acoustic guitar accompaniment, not least from Will Ball, known for being a rock guitarist: and it works with her songs, dance tracks & all. Consequentially, it's important to emphasise that her material has always had such elements somewhere in its DNA and that's kept her music interesting, being a hybrid rather than narrowly based. "Red Flags" might be seen as a development in this direction, but it's a way she's long been heading I think & is key to understanding how & why her work develops & moves on.
As I say, the single has all the characteristic Abz attributes present & correct: lively, engaging & positive personality, powerful singing which never strays into false grandstanding (though she is good at articulating quite complex lyrics within confined spaces) & that tongue enough in cheek tackling of serious issues which stops the drive of the lyric from tipping over into spite.
I think most Abz watchers would possibly see the song as moving a little further along her personal spectrum towards the "rock pop" end and given the shift up in gear on the lyrics noted above (reinforced perhaps by the startlingly serious photo of her on the artwork), you can see why she feels so proud of it. It would be bizarre if this doesn't get good airplay considering how radio friendly it is. She has also shared with us a personal ambition to "…hear a room full of people singing back at her, with something she wrote in the privacy of her home.." and feels this might do the trick: I'm sure it has all that is necessary attributes, though frankly I'm surprised, given the strength of her previous material, that that is still something she's waiting to experience.