You can let the darkness destroy you, or you can do something about it. Up and comer Whitney McClain chooses the latter. “Yes, we go through it, but we can choose to do it…differently. Even hate can choose to love, ain’t got to be what it was, we can change up…instantly,” she unpacks on the opening lines of “Cruise” (out tomorrow), a sweltering slow-jam decorated with punctuated guitar licks and horn tones. Co-written with Marlon McClain II and Davi Jordan, the frothy track brims with silky-smooth vocals, one steamy heat and a message as universally-relevant as it is intensely-personal. Initially, McClain had only the instrumental beat, thanks to accomplice Ralph Stacy, “for quite some time before anything actually came of it,” she tells B-Sides & Badlands.
Jordan conjured up the first lyrics, which then pushed McClain, who hails from Oregon, born to a family of musicians, including an uncle who fronted the ’70s and ’80s underground funk outfit Pleasure, to challenge herself in immeasurable ways. “I felt with all the crazy stuff that’s going on in the world, there’s a lot of negative vibes floating around our community,” she says. “I wanted to create a record that pushed positivity and hope ⎯⎯ that, no matter how bad it might seem, we can always work through it if we love on another. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light.”
The songwriting process became a playful game of ping-pong, ideas bouncing between the talented trio. “[It] wasn’t much different than how we typically write. We sat down, thought about the message we wanted to convey and worked our best to express the feeling. Because of the groove and tempo, this song is much more vibey than any of my other songs.” While the song’s original intent was to be a timely, deeply-rooted manifesto of resilience and optimism, it soon blossomed into “a love song as we wrote the chorus,” McClain adds. “However, I do think it still holds true to what we wanted to put out there in the beginning stages of the writing.”
“Cruise” follows the recent release of McClain’s “Is This Love,” a reggae-sprayed island getaway, and 2016’s hot-to-the-touch Nothing to Lose EP.
Photo credit: David Larkins lll