Everything about Bevlove screams "star" — from her captivating voice to her ability to catch the right angles anytime, anywhere. The R&B singer is no stranger to the spotlight, with a degree in theatre and five years of performing as "Bevlove." In fact, she refuses to let us refer to her as anything other than "Bevlove" — like Madonna, Cher, Beyoncé, or all the other mononymous divas before her. She's even been called "Detroit's Beyoncé." But this year, Bevlove has her sights on stages beyond the city limits.
She landed a spot as the first R&B artist to ever play last weekend's Detroit's Movement Music Festival. And her sophomore release, Letters, is out now. She's not "Detroit's Beyoncé" — she's the world's Bevlove, and by all accounts, she's poised to take it by storm.
At the very least, Bevlove is putting the work in. I link up with her at Studio Detroit, an unassuming dance studio on Nine Mile and Livernois, where she's meeting with her choreographer, Najee Clark, to rehearse her routines before Movement. Bev arrives fashionably late, sporting a turquoise, striped, two-piece leotard and the confidence of a woman who is destined for greatness. She looks the part, talks the part, walks the part, hell, she even tweets the part (she signs all of her tweets either "bevlove" or "bevhate"). There's not a moment when Bevlove is not Bevlove. She's just always so on.
Bev explains that while she's always felt privy to the spotlight, she's been particularly intentional on living the part for the past few years — an "if you build it they will come" mentality. "You have to surround yourself with people who think higher. Believe in you, believe in themselves, believe in something greater," she says. "It's about elevating your mind to the place where you want to be, and that's when all of your actions follow suit."
And that's exactly what Bevlove has done — elevating the experience of going to see her show to make the audience feel like they're attending a spectacular event. Whether she's playing at Ant Hall for Hamtramck Music Fest or in front of thousands at Movement, Bevlove is always accompanied by her trademark neon-pink sign, the backdrop for her fine-tuned dance moves. But even though she makes it look effortless, this well-oiled machine wasn't made overnight. It has taken her years of practice and a solid support system to get to the level where she is today.
"I never really thought of myself as a dancer," Bevlove admits. She says it wasn't until she started working with Clarke that she began to tap into her full diva potential. They've known each other since high school, but didn't start dancing together until three years ago for one of Bevlove's notorious "Americana" festivals, an annual show she used to put on in the backyard of her Woodbridge apartment complex. However, the show eventually outgrew its venue — and Bevlove's patriotism. "That was a different time," she says. "Obama was president... I'm not really fucking with America right now."
While Bevlove's enrapturing and powerful voice is more than enough to floor an audience, adding synchronous choreography brought her stage presence to the upper echelon of R&B. Whether she's taking the stage solo or joined by two backup dancers, Bevlove brings an energy that is larger than life. The carefully timed choreography is delivered with a surplus of sass nods to powerful female artists of the early 2000s like Destiny's Child and TLC, which is appropriate, considering that Bevlove cites Destiny's Child's "Survivor" as one of the most impactful songs from her formative years. "That song always reminds me of when I was a teenager," Bevlove says with a laugh. "Girl, we thought we were going through it."
Our conversation is cut short by a text from Clarke, announcing that she's finally arrived to the studio — an hour past the time she told Bevlove. We head inside the studio where Bev greets a bunch of young girls finishing up their dance rehearsals with big hugs. She begrudgingly approves of Clarke's new wavy 'do — the source of her tardiness — and the two start recapping the events of the past few days with an ease only found between best friends. Next, Bevlove shows us shots from her "Carried Away" music video, where she's sporting a Balmain tank top and a bright red leather skirt.
"You just became very editorial behind my back," Najee says of Bevlove's high-fashion attire.
"I had to boss up," Bevlove says, with a charming combination of confidence and self-awareness.
It's clear that the music video and Letters are a foray into a higher level of artistry for Bevlove, one that she's been working tirelessly for. While we're waiting for one of the studios to open up, Bevlove explains that compared to her previous record, Talk That Shit, Letters shows her growth not only as an artist, but in her personal life as well. "It's very specific," she says. "Talk That Shit was very aggressive... Letters comes from a more calm, relaxed place. It's more vulnerable, more open, more one-to-one."
The record unfolds like a series of intimate snapshots from the singer's life, inviting the listener to get to know her softer side. Bevlove says that "Mean It" — a song about her insecurities and her relationship with her parents — is one of the most emotional tracks on the record.
"It's about my parents, but I still haven't played it for them," Bevlove says. "It's kind of hard when you have a song and everyone knows who it's for." The song opens with Bevlove nostalgically singing, "He said baby you're a star and I believed him." She explains that line is about her dad and how she grew up with the nickname "starchild." But even a woman with a lifetime of assurance and a luminous armour of confidence is still not without her doubts. "You know, you get to a certain point where you're like, 'OK am I a star, or was that just my daddy being a good daddy?'" Bevlove says.
On the other hand, Bevlove says her mother has a tendency to encourage her insecurities. "Just hung up the phone on my mom/ She said go work at bank/ but I can't pass a hair test and I'm always late," Bevlove sings on "Mean It." "I don't know why she always says 'bank,'" says Bev. "It takes me an hour and a half to get ready for everything... because when I'm doing something I always forget and I start doing something else. I'm not about to keep fucking these people's money up."
However, Bevlove says her mother, who is also an artist and songwriter, ultimately understands and encourages her when she needs it the most. "The second verse is the encouraging side of my mom, the part that's real. The part that is me and the reason I am this way," she says. "Everytime I quit a job my mom is like, 'Yeah girl, do it like you feel it.'"
This includes when Bevlove left Quicken Loans in 2015 after working there for two years. As a marketer for Rock Connections, she says she was making 500 calls a day, working 60-hour weeks, partying every night, and putting her music on the back burner. Feeling crushed by the corporate world, Bevlove left Quicken, fully dedicated herself to music, and hasn't looked back since.
If Bevlove's admission of vulnerability left any room for second-guessing her star power, it's instantly reinstated when we go into the studio for her dance rehearsal. In the rehearsal room, Bev and Clarke trade their sneakers for stilettos and slide into the routine for one of Talk That Shit's hypest tracks, "Freaks."
Bevlove approaches her rehearsal with the same energy and confidence she exudes while performing on stage for thousands, and when she hears herself sing, "They should make me the mayor," she replies, "Period," with the untouchable assurance that comes from a woman who knows exactly what she wants.
Despite her claims that she was "never really a dancer," the moves are executed flawlessly with just the right amount of attitude. Even with Clarke giving the occasional correction or suggestion, Bevlove commands the room just like she commands the stage — with grace and poise. With the same anticipation of someone who doesn't want to spoil the season finale of their favorite show, I leave the rehearsal after only a few run-throughs.
With one major festival under her belt, Letters released into the world, and studio time booked in Los Angeles on the horizon, it seems like the sky's the limit for this sultry songstress. But if Bevlove's made one thing clear, it's that however high she rises, she's bringing the city that raised her along for the ride.
"Detroit is my home... I always think about Erykah Badu. She makes the Dallas scene rise," she says. "That's how I want to be in Detroit. I want to be an OG. I think people are starting to see that you can do that here."
You can follow Bevlove at bevlove.co.
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