I had fun imagining Alimah’s vocal style and type. For her voice, I gave her a raspy, sultry, mezzo-soprano vocal type similar to Stacy Barthe.
However, in many of her rock ballads, her vocal pitch can go higher and sound similar to singer-songwriter Diana Gordon (FKA Wynter Gordon) in this video below:
Sound & Artistry Influences
I pulled inspiration from different artists to develop Alimah’s style of music. However, the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails was the biggest influence in both artistry and performance style.
For Alimah’s more pop rock-sounding music and electronic rock, I drew inspiration from Lenny Kravitz (mainly his 2001 album Lenny), Troi Irons, and Awolnation. Her grunge-inspired, melodic rock ballads are a soulful spin on the sounds of Nirvana and a heavier, darker version of Citizen Cope. For her grittier rock, I imagined the industrial sounds of Nine Inch Nails and some elements similar to the nu-metal rapper Scarlxnd. When I thought of earlier influences and musical pioneers before Alimah’s time who inspired her as a person, I immediately thought of Jimi Hendrix, Betty Davis, Joan Jett, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, CAN, The Ramones.
Overall, Alimah’s music is dark, visceral, rhythmic, and heavily syncopated with atmospheric production and textured composition. Even after her transition from R&B to alternative rock, she still adhered to her R&B and soul roots by incorporating elements of those genres, as well as hip-hop, into her rock music.
It may be weird for you to imagine how it sounds. Only the rock playlist that I created for the novel was a compilation of songs that reminds me of Alimah’s style (as well as a celebration of Black rock and alternative artists).
As I wrote lyrics for Alimah’s music, I mentally composed melodies that could sound like Lenny Kravitz’s hard funk-rock combined with Nine Inch Nail’s brooding, visceral industrial rock. I was also greatly by NIN’s The Fragile and The Downward Spiral.
I was also inspired by Massive Attack, a UK trip-hop and electronica duo). Although they aren’t known as a rock band, their 1998 album Mezzanine inspired a type of industrial, downtempo music that could describe the sound of some of Alimah’s darker songs.
Lenny Kravitz, NIN, and Massive Attack all had their biggest hits in the mid-to-late-90s (which, in my opinion, was the best era of alternative rock).
Considering the novel’s timeline (2007-2015), Alimah’s music would have an updated take on these artists’ sound for those decades, incorporating some of the electronic/EDM elements in most of her hit songs. A mainstream, radio-friendly example of this is Awolnation’s “Sail” and Imagine Dragons “Radioactive“.