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Interestingly, the ‘Better Days’ title of this single reminded me greatly of club-oriented songs from the late 80s onwards which featured ‘intriguing’ (by modern standards) version titles like “Extended Boilerhouse Mix” (A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?”), “Montego Mix” (Robin S’ “Show Me Love”) and “Jam on the Groove” (Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life (However do you Want Me)”. Funny I should bring up “Back to Life” since Aneessa’s 2018 debut single was a marvelous cover of that particular song, reworking its soulful lyrical delivery and iconic hip house/R&B-fused instrumental into a laid-back jazz cut laced with crooned vocals from Aneessa and a FANTASTIC sax solo from guest performer Fernando Harkless.
On this Better Days Mix of “Gonna Be Alright”, we’re treated to the same instrumental from the original, save for a few subtle embellishments and tweak. Production is handled by veteran producer/singer/songwriter and Aneessa’s husband Michael B. Sutton, whose credits include Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and Thelma Houston among others. Mixing was handled by Jason Anderson whose credits include New Edition, Johnny Gill, Keith Sweat, Boyz II Men, Los Lonely Boys, En Vogue, Faith Evans, BeBe Winans and the Pointer Sisters.
With some of the best elements of a top-class team on board, we get a song that’s an absolute joy to listen to, with its bouncy piano and keyboard combinative melody and gentle, jazzy percussion and horns in the background, the latter of which become more prominent on the song’s bridge. Aneessa flows over this beat effortlessly with her low, butter-smooth vocal range as she delivers a simple yet charming and emotionally resonant message of hope to the listener, along with a RIDICULOUSLY catchy hook. And from a lyrical standpoint, I love how timely this song feels (especially in this already-problematic decade), proving that it’s more than just your average feel-good song, but a genuine, heartfelt message presented by someone who got through hard times through faith and optimism and seeks to encourage others to do the same.
But what truly surprised me about the Better Days Mix music video were its visuals. While the music video for the original version featured Aneessa in various locations in and out of her home, with some shots of her rocking a 70s-inspired outfit complete with hippie sunglasses, bell bottom jeans and, of course, ROLLER SKATES, this particular video is essentially a montage of symbolic and didactic visuals presenting a real-world perspective on how positive change can be achieved amidst the uncertainty of our times.
The majority of the video is centered on imagery from various rallies and demonstrations, with universal messages like “Love Wins”, “Stop Hate”, “Justice Now” and “Fight Today for Better Tomorrow” written on placards. The presence of individuals wearing face masks gives the video an appropriately contemporary feel, along with significant messages like “Stop Racism” and “This is Not a Moment, It’s the Movement” acting as instant reminders of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of 2020.
Interspersed into the video are a few relatively life-affirming scenes of people engaging in positive activities like dancing and exercise, in addition to a few text-based visuals – each with a bundle of words hinting at a particular emotion, mood or condition – at the beginning of the second verse and in the song’s closing seconds. And while there’s a huge contrast overall between these two music videos, I’d argue that the timeliness of the song itself is amplified on the visuals for the Better Days Mix. Tonally, “Gonna Be Alright” maintains its sunny, delightful luster but thanks to the video’s powerful visuals, the song gains an extra layer of depth and meaning which becomes more noticeable, meaningful and emotionally rewarding with every subsequent listen given to it.
Overall, I found myself appreciating and enjoying the “Gonna Be Alright (Better Days Mix)” music video way more than I expected! Not only does it make for a good starting point into getting into Aneessa’s music – along with the original version, of course – but it also shows there’s still a place in this world for anthems of positivity. Here’s hoping we get more great music – and another aptly-titled version of “Gonna Be Alright” – from Aneessa in the near-future.