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Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop

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American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—written by one of the preeminent cultural critics of her generation. A weave of biography, American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—written by one of the preeminent cultural critics of her generation. A weave of biography, criticism, and memoir, Shine Bright is Danyel Smith’s intimate history of Black women’s music as the foundational story of American pop. Smith has been writing this history for more than five years. But as a music fan, and then as an essayist, editor (Vibe, Billboard), and podcast host (Black Girl Songbook), she has been living this history since she was a latchkey kid listening to “Midnight Train to Georgia” on the family stereo. Smith’s detailed narrative begins with Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who sang her poems, and continues through the stories of Mahalia Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Mariah Carey, as well as the under-considered careers of Marilyn McCoo, Deniece Williams, and Jody Watley. Shine Bright is an overdue paean to musical masters whose true stories and genius have been hidden in plain sight—and the book Danyel Smith was born to write.


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American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—written by one of the preeminent cultural critics of her generation. A weave of biography, American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—written by one of the preeminent cultural critics of her generation. A weave of biography, criticism, and memoir, Shine Bright is Danyel Smith’s intimate history of Black women’s music as the foundational story of American pop. Smith has been writing this history for more than five years. But as a music fan, and then as an essayist, editor (Vibe, Billboard), and podcast host (Black Girl Songbook), she has been living this history since she was a latchkey kid listening to “Midnight Train to Georgia” on the family stereo. Smith’s detailed narrative begins with Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who sang her poems, and continues through the stories of Mahalia Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Mariah Carey, as well as the under-considered careers of Marilyn McCoo, Deniece Williams, and Jody Watley. Shine Bright is an overdue paean to musical masters whose true stories and genius have been hidden in plain sight—and the book Danyel Smith was born to write.

30 review for Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop

  1. 5 out of 5

    Traci Thomas

    Damn that erasure is so so real. Black women have been disrespected so badly in the US and in music specifically. Thanks Danyel Smith for telling these stories. I only wish she could do it for all the Black women in music. I also wish the books structure was more clear, like why were there 3 parts and how were they developed?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jamise

    This book is everything: ⁣ ⁣ ✨ A Celebration of Black women ⁣ ✨ A History Lesson (with receipts)⁣ ✨ A Musical Journey ⁣ ⁣ Danyel guides you on a path that educates and reminds the reader. She comes with facts on how Black women have laid the foundation and paved the way in the music industry. How Black women were not given their just due. It's a magical read. Danyel would mention a song or artist, I’d pause reading and play the song. Memories flooded over me, I was transported back in time and it just This book is everything: ⁣ ⁣ ✨ A Celebration of Black women ⁣ ✨ A History Lesson (with receipts)⁣ ✨ A Musical Journey ⁣ ⁣ Danyel guides you on a path that educates and reminds the reader. She comes with facts on how Black women have laid the foundation and paved the way in the music industry. How Black women were not given their just due. It's a magical read. Danyel would mention a song or artist, I’d pause reading and play the song. Memories flooded over me, I was transported back in time and it just felt good (& sometimes not good)! ⁣ ⁣ I’m a music lover to my core. From a very early age, music was infused into my soul by my father. Our house was full of music all the time. When he passed away several years ago, I found comfort in going through his extensive (and I mean extensive) vinyl collection. It was healing. To me that’s what music does, it heals, soothes, brings joy, and carries you through. I can’t imagine being a music lover and not reading Shine Bright. ⁣

  3. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    SHINE BRIGHT by Danyel Smith Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Roc Lit 101 Pub Date: Apr 19 Danyel Smith's history of the role of Black women in American pop is such a fascinating read. The author has the definitive background for writing this most intriguing book, drawing upon her experience as editor of Vibe and of Billboard, and as host of the popular podcast, Black Girl Songbook. It's a wonderful mixture of history, biography, criticism, and memoir, with Danyel's own love of music w SHINE BRIGHT by Danyel Smith Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Roc Lit 101 Pub Date: Apr 19 Danyel Smith's history of the role of Black women in American pop is such a fascinating read. The author has the definitive background for writing this most intriguing book, drawing upon her experience as editor of Vibe and of Billboard, and as host of the popular podcast, Black Girl Songbook. It's a wonderful mixture of history, biography, criticism, and memoir, with Danyel's own love of music woven throughout. I learned so much about unknown and famous Black women singers who infused pop with such a distinctive American sound. Smith starts with Phillis Wheatley, a slave who sang her own poems. She also shares rich stories of such greats as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Mariah Carey, as well as lesser-known Marilyn McCoo, Jody Watley and Deniece Williams. As I read, I "heard" their voices and songs that have long impacted my life and felt such joy! This is a must-read for anyone who loves pop music, the Black women singers who made pop such a success, and beautifully written history-bios-memoirs. A triumph! Thanks to the author, Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Roc Lit 101, and NetGalley for the digital ARC. Opinions are mine. #ShineBright #DanyelSmith #RandomHousePublishingGroup #NetGalley #BlackWomenSingers #AmericanPopMusic #MusicMemoirs #MusicHistory #MusicBiographies #bookstagramcommunity

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    I read this for a book club. I think this is marketed correctly, because based on the blurb I was worried I wouldn't like it very much. The Outro, the final chapter, was actually amazing. 5 stars! I love the message of the book and Smith was able to hit me in the feels so hard with her writing. But the rest of the book didn't work for me. The book is basically a combo of memoir and music history. The memoir didn't really work for me because it makes up so little of the entire book, like 20%. Smi I read this for a book club. I think this is marketed correctly, because based on the blurb I was worried I wouldn't like it very much. The Outro, the final chapter, was actually amazing. 5 stars! I love the message of the book and Smith was able to hit me in the feels so hard with her writing. But the rest of the book didn't work for me. The book is basically a combo of memoir and music history. The memoir didn't really work for me because it makes up so little of the entire book, like 20%. Smith has led an incredibly interesting life and she writes with great emotion about it, she has stories to tell but they're so bogged down by all the history stuff surrounding them that I never settled into her story. She also jumps around chronologically which can be fine when it makes sense thematically, but it honestly felt kind of random, more dictated by the pop history than her own history or the point she was trying to make. The pop history part of this didn't work well for me either. This is subtitled "a very personal history" and while that alludes to the memoir of it all, its also a fair description of how Smith approached the music history of this book. It kind of felt like we were getting fact-filled personal biographies of the featured artists. It wasn't about the music, it was about the women. As a huge pop music fan, I already knew the biographies of nearly all of these women. I took away some new trivia facts, but Smith isn't providing perspective-shifting stuff when it comes to these women. When it comes to pop music, I love culture analyses, music analyses, and fangirls deep diving into discographies. Smith does a little bit of culture analyses as she talks about racism in pop, but it's so scattershot throughout the book that it doesn't feel well done. She quotes a few lyrics, but she doesn't really analyze music. Music is so subjective and Smith says offhand stuff like "she sang with raw emotion" or "this was her best work" without ever breaking down what she means by that. I have to say it because it bothered me so much, but she says the "raw emotion" thing about Dionne Warwick's "Don't Make Me Over." I listened to Warwick's Burt Bacharach stuff on repeat as a teen and would never have called it "raw," more like perfectly produced. This may be the music nerd in me, but I want explanations when people say stuff like that. Take me through your thought process so I can learn something! And, lastly, Smith doesn't do any deep diving into discographies, which I was especially disappointed with when she covered Gladys Knight who is so unfairly underrated. The YouTube age may have spoiled me, but lacking real critical analyses, then I at least wanted to hear a superfan talk about their favorite stuff. If you don't know a lot about these artists, then this book may feel very informative, but if you're a pop superfan, its not giving much other than Smith's personal stories which are a really small part of the overall book and cluttered up by all the celebrity biographical info.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    There's a type of history/biography book that incorporates the author's personal journey/experiences with the subject; I wish I knew a word for it! Sometimes it doesn't work, and you wish the author had focused more on the person/historical event than their own thoughts/feelings/experiences. Other authors--like Danyel Smith--effectively weave their personal storyline within the narrative, which enriches it further. If you want a standard group of biography of influential Black American recording There's a type of history/biography book that incorporates the author's personal journey/experiences with the subject; I wish I knew a word for it! Sometimes it doesn't work, and you wish the author had focused more on the person/historical event than their own thoughts/feelings/experiences. Other authors--like Danyel Smith--effectively weave their personal storyline within the narrative, which enriches it further. If you want a standard group of biography of influential Black American recording artists, this might not be for you. However, you would miss out on a deeply personal, moving, and enriching journey through the complex and powerful history of Black American women in popular music. Librarians/booksellers: Readers who enjoy memoirs--even though this is not strictly a memoir--and entertainment history will love this. Would be a great book club pick! Many thanks to PRH and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Read this book immediately. This memoir/history of black women in American music is so beautiful and hopeful and sad and edifying that you will cry a thousand times and make playlists and dance a thousand more.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a really cool read. Part music criticism, part memoir, Shine Bright shares the stories of the foundational work Black women in pop music, and American culture more broadly. Amongst the insightful connections between different artists, influences, and eras, the author weaves in personal vignettes in her deep relationship with music. In the earlier chapters, she shares the memories she associates with these artists. In the music of her adolescence and young adulthood, she recounts life ex This was a really cool read. Part music criticism, part memoir, Shine Bright shares the stories of the foundational work Black women in pop music, and American culture more broadly. Amongst the insightful connections between different artists, influences, and eras, the author weaves in personal vignettes in her deep relationship with music. In the earlier chapters, she shares the memories she associates with these artists. In the music of her adolescence and young adulthood, she recounts life experiences which these songs soundtracked. Most interestingly, in her coverage of more contemporary Black female pop icons, she gives distinct insight into legendary performers through her work as a music journalist and critic. I learned a lot, both about artists I love and those I'm less familiar with. The chapter on Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston is especially fantastic. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    JosetteWinter

    A beautifully detailed history of the central role Black Women had on shaping American music, interweaving her own personal testimonies as a writer.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Ok so number one, you really need to pay attention to the subtitle when it says "a very personal history of Black women in pop." If you read the blurb on the flap, you are not going to realize that while this is 1/2 the history of Black women in pop, it is also 1/2 the story of the author. Each chapter basically digs deep in on a Black female popstar, but it also circles back and forth through the author's life; it's really her biography with a history of Black female musicians on the side. I LO Ok so number one, you really need to pay attention to the subtitle when it says "a very personal history of Black women in pop." If you read the blurb on the flap, you are not going to realize that while this is 1/2 the history of Black women in pop, it is also 1/2 the story of the author. Each chapter basically digs deep in on a Black female popstar, but it also circles back and forth through the author's life; it's really her biography with a history of Black female musicians on the side. I LOVED: the people the author included, the details and stories she gave, the ways she interpreted events of their lives, the commonalities she really brought to the forefront (it's really wild how high most of these women would scores on the ACEs test). I have tried to think about which was my favorite chapter, but I'm really not sure. The Janet Jackson chapter probably has the most insider info, so to speak. The Whitney Houston chapter might actually be the most upsetting (despite MANY of these women having very abusive, traumatic histories). There are many more women discussed here than name the chapters--as I mention below, often in a chapter on a certain artist, there will be a little popup history of another who doesn't get their own chapter (somewhere I remember a few paragraphs on Etta James, for example). I loved that the author has taken it on as a personal mission to never back down, never be limited by anyone else's perceptions and biases. Just as happened with so many of these singers/performers, she herself was often discounted for X supposed reason (when in reality the reason is clearly "you're a Black woman so I don't think you can do X and I won't even let you try because hello I'm a racist misogynist"). I loved that until the epilogue (or "Outro") you really do not get a sense of this being a constant name-dropping situation, despite the fact that the author clearly could have done that. I loved that (what certainly seems to be) one of the author's personality traits is that she is not going to let herself be treated the way she's seen so many other women in history be treated. I mean, at certain points in the past she did. But it really feels like she has arrived at a true moment of badassery now--that she knows she is ALL THAT and she's never going to even equivocate at pronouncing it. So.... I think you may be getting a sense from this review how much this book is about the author, in addition to being about these amazing women who were the soundtrack of her life. Something that required work (on the reader's part): There is a constant spiral of time--with each artist, she starts at the beginning of their life and moves forward, so her stories of her own life spiral back in time and forward as well. So it felt a little whirlwind-esque in that you are always being thrown back to the author's childhood, when say in the last chapter, she had gotten to college. So I felt like, for myself as the reader, the timeline was a bit of shifting sand--perhaps an actual time line printed on the page might have been nice, to have a place to ground between chapters. What didn't completely work for me: I didn't always find the transitions completely polished--sometimes the transition in a chapter between that particular artist and the author's personal memories seemed rough or forced; sometimes the transition to another artist and back in a chapter seemed to throw things out of whack. There was definitely a point at which I thought "why does this one moment in her life keep coming up?" and thankfully there was a pay off when that incident is finally fully explicated in a chapter toward the end...but it felt like maybe it hadn't needed to be mentioned so many times before. Basically there were times when I felt the book wasn't moving forward super smoothly. (But that's a reader expectation, it's not necessarily that it was meant to but didn't [I don't know if that was the intention or not].) So I did feel like the editing of this book was maybe done with too light a hand--but there are also times in this book where I could definitely imagine the author saying "how DARE you edit ME!" Heh. PLAYLIST: I'm assuming that someone has created a Spotify playlist of all the songs mentioned in this book. If not, you are definitely going to want to have your iTunes or however you get music nearby when you are reading it. This book brings up so many songs (OBVIOUSLY), some of which I hadn't thought of in years. It was so fun to remember some of these hits and you're going to want to be able to pause and listen to them. (Or pause, press play, and then list in the background while you read!)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bruin Mccon

    Waiting on that other shoe to drop doesn’t stop it. Shine Bright is an absolutely phenomenal exploration of Black women in music. From the early acts who were purposely ignored and then forgotten, to huge names in music whose true stories aren’t seen, this book covers a lot of sacred ground. There are topics you may not expect, like women who shine brighter than their significant others and suffer abuse as a result, to women who are never given credit for their contributions. There are a lot of s Waiting on that other shoe to drop doesn’t stop it. Shine Bright is an absolutely phenomenal exploration of Black women in music. From the early acts who were purposely ignored and then forgotten, to huge names in music whose true stories aren’t seen, this book covers a lot of sacred ground. There are topics you may not expect, like women who shine brighter than their significant others and suffer abuse as a result, to women who are never given credit for their contributions. There are a lot of stories of men behaving badly and trying to control women. Music is also a salve, to so many, and certainly that comes through while reading SB. Mainly, this is the record of forgotten tales. One anecdote that nuked me was of Ella Fitzgerald, in a TV interview, being asked how she was scandal free. She decides to mention a so-called scandal, when she fell in love with a Norwegian man and couldn’t be with him because of laws against mixed race marriages. This interview was in the 80s, available on YouTube if you’re curious (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0WxWbig...). This interviewer just left-turns from her answer, not acknowledging what she’s been through and the pain of it. That she shared her private pain and was ignored…it’s typical even today and no one recognizes it’s so wrong. Well, Danyel Smith noticed. She wrote about this and so many other moments where Black women shared their pain and it was invisible. Black women saw. And we need to see them. The book is intertwined with the story of the author, a well known music journalist. This is the perfect way to tell this story. This is a compelling and heartbreaking story of the unparalleled creativity of Black women, and the price many pay for success.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jalisa

    I'm a huge music fan so I was really looking forward to this read, but it wasn't as satisfying as I hoped. I do think it achieved it's overall goal of highlighting underappreciated Black women artists in pop, but it often did so in a much more surface or incomplete way than I thought it would. I do appreciate what a broad and difficult undertaking that is though. I was fascinated by the interrelationships between so many artists, producers, and writers through geography, marriage, friendships, a I'm a huge music fan so I was really looking forward to this read, but it wasn't as satisfying as I hoped. I do think it achieved it's overall goal of highlighting underappreciated Black women artists in pop, but it often did so in a much more surface or incomplete way than I thought it would. I do appreciate what a broad and difficult undertaking that is though. I was fascinated by the interrelationships between so many artists, producers, and writers through geography, marriage, friendships, and music catalogues. The branches of Black music are lush and interlocking. Of all the chapters, the Janet chapter was the strongest (likely because there were fewer flashbacks from the author's own life). Yet, even this chapter felt like I didn't learn a lot new about Janet Jackson and her true impact on pop music. The writing was very disjointed. The timelines and people she focused on jumped all over the place with little warning, rhyme or reason. At a few points in the book I forgot who the core artist(s) we were supposed to focusing on were. I left each chapter wishing the author would've gone deeper on the women she discussed. The closing lines of each chapter often felt like a thought unfinished. The flashbacks to the authors own life didn't connect as smoothly to what was being shared as I would've hoped and often felt tangential at best. Danyel Smith has had tremendous impact on Black music writing and her profiles often give a deeper insight into the artists she covers that aren't given elsewhere. I loved to hear about her own journey, but I think it would've worked better as a prologue and afterward. Overall, this book made me really want to read a good music tell all.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hope Alexander

    I think this is a fantastic book. I listened to the audio book, then bought the book to read in print. I also subscribed to her podcast Black Girl Sings. This b0ok is a very rich history of black women in the music industry woven with personal stories that are priceless. I want to refute one critic who said the author was a bland reader of her audio book. I didn't feel that way at all. I truely felt that listening to Danyel Smith's voice made it even more personal. And who better to tell these s I think this is a fantastic book. I listened to the audio book, then bought the book to read in print. I also subscribed to her podcast Black Girl Sings. This b0ok is a very rich history of black women in the music industry woven with personal stories that are priceless. I want to refute one critic who said the author was a bland reader of her audio book. I didn't feel that way at all. I truely felt that listening to Danyel Smith's voice made it even more personal. And who better to tell these stories than the former editor of Billboard Magazine and a black woman herself who grew up with all this influential music. But this book contains so much history and culture that we should all understand. I think it's particularly poignant to folks of a certain age people who grew up listening to groups like Marilyn McCoo and the Fifth Dimension, The Supremes, Donna Summer, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin....I could go on and on. The hardships and trials many of these women went through needs to be known and understood. Thank you to Danyel Smith for the hard work she put into sharing these stories with all of us. And now I'm going to create a Spotify playlist with all these artists so I can reminisce!

  13. 4 out of 5

    LiteraryMarie

    Before I delve into this book review, please take a look at this beautiful eye-catching cover! Such a vibrant orange with flowers surrounding a gold album. It shines bright as the title. Shine Bright is a blend of biography and music history with Black women as the foundation. There is a short list of people qualified to write such a book; Danyel Smith is the best author for it. She has written pieces of this history for years through essays, as an editor for Vibe magazine and as a music critic. Before I delve into this book review, please take a look at this beautiful eye-catching cover! Such a vibrant orange with flowers surrounding a gold album. It shines bright as the title. Shine Bright is a blend of biography and music history with Black women as the foundation. There is a short list of people qualified to write such a book; Danyel Smith is the best author for it. She has written pieces of this history for years through essays, as an editor for Vibe magazine and as a music critic. Now she dives all in with this intimate narrative along with her own memories. The story of Black women in pop begins with an 8-year-old among a slave ship in July 1761. She grew into a woman who sang her poems by the name of Phillis Wheatley. The author feels a personal connection with this Black woman genius and dreams of her often. The stories continue featuring the Drinkard family, Gladys Knight, Peaches, Deniece Williams, Mariah Carey and more. "To scream at a show, to get drunk on bass vibrations, to sing memorized lyrics loudly in unison with people you don't even know?" ~ 38% Reading Shine Bright was an experience. It was like sitting down with Danyel Smith in front of a retro record player as she put on different albums and told stories. There's just some music that puts you in a certain headspace. There are songs that hold memories. But the history behind the music are the real gems in this book. Danyel Smith shares those moments with readers and gave damn good arguments on why her favorites are her favorites. The appreciation for Black women in pop leaps off the pages. It goes without expressly saying that I recommend Shine Bright. Place your pre-order. Reserve at the library. Secure your copy! Share the fact that Black women created meaningful music. Now excuse me while I go create a playlist on Tidal—if Elliot Wilson hasn't already—and continue the praise of Black women musical masters. Happy Early Pub Day, Danyel Smith! Shine Bright will be available Tuesday, April 19. ~LiteraryMarie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kate (reeder_reads)

    I read Shine Bright for The Stacks book club May 2022 selection. This book wasn’t on my radar otherwise. I am notoriously not well versed in pop culture, especially music. So, I’m 100% not the target audience of this book. With all of that being said, I am happy I read this book and I learned a lot! Danyel is clearly very passionate about black women in music—it shines through in her writing. I went the audio route with this one and I found the audio disappointing. Danyel’s narration was solid, I read Shine Bright for The Stacks book club May 2022 selection. This book wasn’t on my radar otherwise. I am notoriously not well versed in pop culture, especially music. So, I’m 100% not the target audience of this book. With all of that being said, I am happy I read this book and I learned a lot! Danyel is clearly very passionate about black women in music—it shines through in her writing. I went the audio route with this one and I found the audio disappointing. Danyel’s narration was solid, but I wish the publisher put more money towards the audio effects. There was no music included—SUCH a missed opportunity. I also found the structure difficult to follow on audio. Danyel weaves in personal anecdotes with musician histories and it was hard to navigate off the page. I def recommend the physical book over the audio if that’s an option for you!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Shine Bright was a brilliant combination of memoir and general nonfiction about Black women in pop music. I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes moments that went into making the music and artists that I have loved my whole life. I hate that there is still so much farther to go for equal rights and respect, especially for Black women. Very often they do not receive the credit, or the payment, for all of their hard work, and this is especially rampant in the music world where writing credit and r Shine Bright was a brilliant combination of memoir and general nonfiction about Black women in pop music. I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes moments that went into making the music and artists that I have loved my whole life. I hate that there is still so much farther to go for equal rights and respect, especially for Black women. Very often they do not receive the credit, or the payment, for all of their hard work, and this is especially rampant in the music world where writing credit and royalties can make or break someone. Danyel Smith did a great job of weaving her own story into this history lesson, turning the music into the soundtrack of her life. And I agree that "Midnight Train to Georgia" is the greatest song!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ritchie

    Very disappointing. I understand this is a "personal" take on some very great performers (Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight), but Smith's memoir runs roughshod over everything else. Though I'm a few years older than her, she and I share some early musical memories, and she does occasionally dig up an interesting tidbit about the singers she loves, and her love for these women does come across strongly. But every time she hits a groove with a particular sing Very disappointing. I understand this is a "personal" take on some very great performers (Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight), but Smith's memoir runs roughshod over everything else. Though I'm a few years older than her, she and I share some early musical memories, and she does occasionally dig up an interesting tidbit about the singers she loves, and her love for these women does come across strongly. But every time she hits a groove with a particular singer, she takes the story back to her experiences. Often, her experiences appear to have little to do with the singer she's covering (Gladys Knight being a good example). The mix of memoir and music history didn't sit well with me, but your mileage may differ.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emi Yoshida

    Danyel Smith and I are a year apart in age, so I'm familiar with most of the music she mentions, even if not the backstory. Nevertheless I find it all fascinating. I love all the connections and factions and conspiracies Smith explains so adeptly: "caught up in the circular pattern of white artists being rewarded for mimicking Blackness and Black artists being maligned or short-sold for trying to sound like white artists,-who are trying to sound like them". I love the stories and the legends, bu Danyel Smith and I are a year apart in age, so I'm familiar with most of the music she mentions, even if not the backstory. Nevertheless I find it all fascinating. I love all the connections and factions and conspiracies Smith explains so adeptly: "caught up in the circular pattern of white artists being rewarded for mimicking Blackness and Black artists being maligned or short-sold for trying to sound like white artists,-who are trying to sound like them". I love the stories and the legends, but I especially love the way Smith shares her own personal history in a way that serves unequivocally to emphasize the case she makes about black women in America.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Essential reading on our black female singing icons over the decades through the lens of Smith’s own remarkable experience. For me the book itself would be 4.5 or 5 stars but the audiobook is not one I can recommend. Smith’s narration has an odd stilted cadence, as if she was constantly pausing to check the text or turn a page. Editors need to remember that not all gifted authors are also gifted narrators. So go get the hard copy or e-book and enjoy the journey Smith provides through American mu Essential reading on our black female singing icons over the decades through the lens of Smith’s own remarkable experience. For me the book itself would be 4.5 or 5 stars but the audiobook is not one I can recommend. Smith’s narration has an odd stilted cadence, as if she was constantly pausing to check the text or turn a page. Editors need to remember that not all gifted authors are also gifted narrators. So go get the hard copy or e-book and enjoy the journey Smith provides through American music history.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    This book took me a while to get into because I didn’t really know anyone the book was talking about. This very much solidifies the point that Black women in music were erased from history but also I just don’t know names of bands, singers, or songs without hearing the song. I loved part 3 of the book and a lot of part 2 and enjoyed learning about the history of singers I do know. There are 100+ other Black women the author could have picked and everyone will find someone they wish Danyel covere This book took me a while to get into because I didn’t really know anyone the book was talking about. This very much solidifies the point that Black women in music were erased from history but also I just don’t know names of bands, singers, or songs without hearing the song. I loved part 3 of the book and a lot of part 2 and enjoyed learning about the history of singers I do know. There are 100+ other Black women the author could have picked and everyone will find someone they wish Danyel covered but overall I think it was a good compilation of singers and performers in history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This is an incredible book and Danyel Smith is SUCH a great writer. I loved how she interspersed her own story throughout the stories of these pivotal Black women in pop music. There is SO MUCH I don't know/didn't know about the history of pop music and especially about how Black women have been erased - purposely - throughout. I learned so much reading this book and I'm inspired to learn more. I wish Smith would write ALL of her stories, because man is it clear that she has some stories. I real This is an incredible book and Danyel Smith is SUCH a great writer. I loved how she interspersed her own story throughout the stories of these pivotal Black women in pop music. There is SO MUCH I don't know/didn't know about the history of pop music and especially about how Black women have been erased - purposely - throughout. I learned so much reading this book and I'm inspired to learn more. I wish Smith would write ALL of her stories, because man is it clear that she has some stories. I really loved this collection. So good.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dahlia

    As a fan of her podcast, I’ve been waiting for this. I truly loved this because you could feel her love for music and her love for Black women in music all over the pages. I loved how she wove her own personal stories into the chapters. Songs and artists have the power to transfer you to a different time in your life and I loved how the author used the power of music to take her back to different times in her life. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but her passion was always on the pag As a fan of her podcast, I’ve been waiting for this. I truly loved this because you could feel her love for music and her love for Black women in music all over the pages. I loved how she wove her own personal stories into the chapters. Songs and artists have the power to transfer you to a different time in your life and I loved how the author used the power of music to take her back to different times in her life. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but her passion was always on the page.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Georgie

    I learned a lot and grew my musical taste and now have a list of movies to see. However, I got lost a lot. I don’t know if I just didn’t follow closely or what, but I found myself rereading and going back pages to figure out what year I was reading about. I really loved the memoir sections. And I very much enjoyed the subtle return to the overall theme: Black women shine bright despite people trying to dull them.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Abra Kurt

    An important read for fans of music history as well as those interested in how the intersections of gender and race and class have impacted the careers of both world-renown and barely known artists. A nuanced cultural study that also incorporates personal storytelling, Shine Bright is biography, memoir, musicology, sociology, and pop culture in one beautifully packaged volume.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lorie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I enjoyed hearing stories about the divas featured in this book. On audio, it was confusing to know when the text changed from memoir to biography. I didn't love the narration and although I understand why it isn't possible, was missing the production quality of a podcast and missing hearing all of the music the author references. I enjoyed hearing stories about the divas featured in this book. On audio, it was confusing to know when the text changed from memoir to biography. I didn't love the narration and although I understand why it isn't possible, was missing the production quality of a podcast and missing hearing all of the music the author references.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dina Samimi

    I want to love this. Smith knows what she's talking about. For me, it was a little too inside baseball -- the minor players in each chapter and their stories sometimes took away from the main show and I often got lost as Smith moved back and forth between story lines throughout the course of a chapter. There are a lot of threads to weave and I wish she was able to do this a little more expertly (I'm thinking about A Little Devil in America here). I was definitely interested in the subject matter I want to love this. Smith knows what she's talking about. For me, it was a little too inside baseball -- the minor players in each chapter and their stories sometimes took away from the main show and I often got lost as Smith moved back and forth between story lines throughout the course of a chapter. There are a lot of threads to weave and I wish she was able to do this a little more expertly (I'm thinking about A Little Devil in America here). I was definitely interested in the subject matter and the intersection of personal memoir and criticism, just needed the writing to be a little tighter. Starting with Phillis Wheatley was really beautiful. Ending was great as well.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chiara

    So I'm DNFing (at 17%) not because this is bad but because I have this on audio and I feel like I'm not taking in the content well on audio, like I'm just not following it well, and need to read it with my eyes (and with Google and a music reference playlist on hand lol) I stead. So stopping this for now but may come back to it one day. So I'm DNFing (at 17%) not because this is bad but because I have this on audio and I feel like I'm not taking in the content well on audio, like I'm just not following it well, and need to read it with my eyes (and with Google and a music reference playlist on hand lol) I stead. So stopping this for now but may come back to it one day.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy Herring

    I really loved the content of this book. I loved the mix of Danyel’s story and the stories of all of these Black women in pop music. I learned so much about these women that I thought I knew a lot about. My qualm with this book is the structure. It’s a me problem-I like chronological order, and this book jumped around. Overall, though, I strongly recommend this for any music lover!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    Smith covers the evolution of Black Women in Pop Music and how their music got her through life. I understand how music can really influence you but she could become rather long winded and off topic.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Wow this book was so much more compelling than I anticipated, as a person who's not necessarily that into music. But I loved the way Danyel Smith incorporated her own life and stories into these pages. She's someone I wasn't previously familiar with, whom I know respect tremendously. Wow this book was so much more compelling than I anticipated, as a person who's not necessarily that into music. But I loved the way Danyel Smith incorporated her own life and stories into these pages. She's someone I wasn't previously familiar with, whom I know respect tremendously.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    Best book I've read so far this year. This is a brilliant blend of memoir, biography, and criticism. It’s so fucking smart. SO SMART. The way Smith weaves the stories of the songs and the Black women who created them into her own story is nothing short of genius. Best book I've read so far this year. This is a brilliant blend of memoir, biography, and criticism. It’s so fucking smart. SO SMART. The way Smith weaves the stories of the songs and the Black women who created them into her own story is nothing short of genius.

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