Courtnie Brings Welcome Warmth to Cat


Photo by Bryan Rubin, Photo Editor

R&B singer Courtnie opened the Cat in the Cream’s fall performance schedule Saturday night with warm, ethereal vocals and uplifting lyrics.

Ananya Gupta, Managing Editor

Courtnie, a neo-soul R&B artist currently based in Brooklyn, NY, showcased her alluring, sensational vocals Sunday evening. Performing onstage at the Cat in the Cream, Courtnie sang about love — not just love for a partner or a friend, but also the “love experienced in passion and simply loving life.” While she treated the audience to a few numbers from her upcoming album I Feel Like Color, scheduled to be released later this month, the audience was particularly delighted with some of her more well-known songs like “Try,” an optimistic take on how liberating it can be to let your guard down; she sings, “Are you really alive if you don’t take the time, baby, to explore?”

The performance, which was the first of the semester at the Cat in the Cream, was bound to receive an enthusiastic reception from new and returning students who were drawn to Courtnie’s show, including fans of the genre. “I’m definitely a fan of R&B,” said Jude Fernandes, a sophomore college student. “My favorite artists are Prince and Stevie Wonder, and contemporary artists such as NAO and SZA.”

Singing to a nearly full house, Courtnie won hearts easily. The audience gravitated toward her not only for her raw, sultry voice and hip beats, but for the physical and emotional passion she conveyed in her music and the vibrant energy that she created in the room. She exhibited the freedom of body and spirit that many Obies aspire to, and her enticing dance moves only heightened the remarkable vibe in the room. When she sings, she has a clear message that she wants to convey to the audience: “Be passionate about what you do and … just live life,” Courtnie said.

“It was amazing,” said College junior Sky Davis, who was involved in organizing the event. “I was nervous about how it would turn out, considering we never know how many people will turn up or whether they’ll like it, but it turned out much better than I expected.”

Davis discovered Courtnie’s music through her debut video “Heart’s Desire.” The song features a “cool, kind of ’70s” aesthetic, according to Davis, and lyrics like “The way I really wanna capture your breath/ And just show you what’s the deal.” Courtnie’s talent, charm, and ethereal style kept Davis — and now Oberlin — coming back for more.

Courtnie’s musical journey has taken a surprising path. When she was 7, her grandmother told her, “Girl, you cannot sing, stop.” But she joined a gospel choir when she attended University of Southern California, and has been singing ever since.

“I don’t do it full time yet as I work for Black Entertainment Television, but music is slowly becoming more and more a full-time thing and central to my life,” Courtnie said.

Courtnie is active on SoundCloud, where her songs like “Nebula” and “Mr. Sensei” are gaining steady popularity, with tens of thousands of listens on the tracks that she has posted. Still, “[Courtnie] is not overtly well-known, so the focus [of her performance] would remain on her energy and positivity,” Davis said.

He added that Oberlin is an ideal venue for Courtnie’s music. “I think it’s important for people to feel positive energy, and I knew Courtnie could turn even the most reluctant listener into the mood she so desired,” Davis said. Judging by the cheers, sing-alongs, and swaying bodies, it seems the crowd resonated with Davis’ review. Courtnie certainly knew how to command a room. “My favorite moment was when she made the audience sing with her and have this call and response dynamic that everybody partook in,” said Daniel Firebanks, a second year College student.

Courtnie’s upcoming album surrounds “diversity and religion,” she said, drawing inspiration from worldwide, iconic artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, and Solange.

In times when we are swept away with social media presence, stardom, and gimmicks, Courtnie brought a humble charm that encouraged understanding with listeners, framing her poetic lyrics with textures and harmonies that gave them extraordinary depth. “It was important for Oberlin students to know that — as if a reminder was needed — Black artists can be successful in the industry. [And] to be fair and serious, she’s also quite an example to follow for simultaneously working a corporate job while following her artist dream,” Firebanks said.