Cedric Noel finds himself under the larger-than-life-sized riffs of “Nighttime (Skin)”, a timely single about Black identity within a dominantly White music industry. The indie rock song is a celebration — inside and out — ringing with revelation through beaming electric guitar and lyrical introspection.
Noel masters sustain, bringing each note to fruition in his unique vocal tone. Grounded with soft rock drums, the bass line boosts the forward momentum of a contained yet boisterous melody. As one of few Black musicians in the Canadian indie-music scene, Noel explores the importance of self-actualizing who and how he wants to be, reflecting on the limitations of belonging to a visible minority: “I belong to a tribe, I don’t know how.”
Although there’s a lot of positive ongoing work to afford Black artists equal opportunities, it’s important to recognize the persistent and deep-seated implications of being racially seen and valued by others. Noel names these external pressures and explains how they’ve impacted his creative ability: “The skin’s been too thick to allow more than water to seep out.”
“Nighttime (Skin)” is a reminder to look within to uncover all the ways we are more than the watered-down selves sometimes presented for others. As the song progresses, Noel begins to recognize himself and fall in love with “the how”: “Skin so black, I am proud.”
“Nighttime (Skin)” is an anthem of Black pride, but it’s also about understanding the parts of yourself that aren’t necessarily centred around racial visibility. Belonging to a minority and constantly being noticed for your differences can have adverse effects; it’s a beautiful thing to remember that your appearance is a point of pride, but it is also only one part of everything you are.
While we are all working hard to figure out how to be ourselves in this world, Cedric Noel demonstrates how to grapple with some of the struggles unique to people of colour, transforming introspection into something good for others. “Nighttime (Skin)” is a beacon of hope for Black artists and all of us striving for solidarity in the music industry.