Thursday Throwback: #MusicWithSole - Deezer x Zak Abel x Daniel Cordas
Over the past decade, British soul music has been dominated by female voices. The likes of Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Estelle and Duffy reinvigorated the genre in the early 2000s. As the years have passed, US hip-hop, grime and club music have ruled the charts, but now, with underground neo-soul artists like Joy Crookes, Mahalia and Cleo Sol, it looks like British soul is having its rightful renaissance. Despite this, males in the soul music scene are often overlooked. Bar the likes of Sam Smith and John Newman, neo-soul pioneers like Sam Wills, Will Heard and Zak Abel still remain underrated. After being named as one of Deezer’s global priority acts of 2018, however, Zak Abel looks set to change that.
The singer-songwriter first burst into the scene after collaborating with Gorgon City on their hit Unmissable. Since then, Abel has collaborated with the likes of Tom Misch and Wretch 32, sold out two headline shows at Scala and released his debut album, Only When We’re Naked on the back of the success of singles ‘Unstable’ and ‘Everybody Needs Love’.
To celebrate the release of his latest hit, Love Song, global streaming service, Deezer challenged the singer to embrace a different artistic side. Pairing up with renowned artist, Daniel Cordas, who has collaborated with big brands like Red Bull, Adidas, Harrods, Jimmy Choo, Canon, Hypebeast and Landmark Hong Kong and created custom pieces for Stormzy, Chipmunk and many more; the two were then tasked with creating custom trainer designs based on their personal interpretations of Zak’s new track. The pair then worked on a third pair of special ‘Flow’ trainers, featuring the songs that have influenced both artists in their respective creative fields.
Launched at London Bridge’s The Underdog, the pair discussed their #MusicWithSole project and the meaning of their interpretations. Zak’s interpretation signified a ‘positive’ relationship breakup and an attempt to regain control of his life, hence the rich colourful tones and orange hues indicating the sun setting on the end of his relationship, with the hands on the back of each shoe representing taking steps apart.
Daniel’s interpretation took inspiration from his feelings of resentment and relief when listening to the song. The deep blue sea cordoned off by yellow tape signified the toxic relationship and took inspiration from the ‘throwing pebbles in the ocean’ lyrics, whilst the image of a bridge on fire and the trainer’s ‘singed’ look played on the metaphor of Zak’s ‘burning bridges’ line.
For the third and final pair designed by Daniel, the artwork represented the musical journey that both artists used to get into their ‘flow’. Zak’s motown influences from hits such as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Stevie Wonder’s Visions, Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine and Michael Jackson’s album Off The Wall were highlighted with illustrations of a riot officer and disco floor tiles, whilst Daniel’s illustrations took reference from Kanye West’s Ghost Town and Eminem’s When I’m Gone.
Zak described his artistic process of creating and listening to music as a ‘highly emotional experience’, and talked of his fascination of people listening to the same track and hear it differently, whilst Daniel talked of the importance of recognising his designs as the phrase he coined: ‘Art, not customs.’
When Wordplay began in 2002, it was launched as a magazine dedicated to both the hip-hop and graffiti scene in the UK. In this same way, sneaker culture and music have always been closely connected. The power of visual metaphors in music, particularly in such emotionally-driven genres like hip-hop and soul, allow for interpretation in these visual arts. It’s great to see streaming services like Deezer supporting this creativity. Let’s hope there’s more of this to come!