Montrealer and Haitian-Canadian Dominique Fils-Aimé shines on the final album in her trilogy exploring African-American blues, jazz and soul
Three Little Words by Dominique Fils-Aimé
  • INTRO: Relevance With Soul
  • INTERVIEW: With Tom Power on CBC Radio q (20.30 mins)
  • REVIEWS: From the New Yorker, Exclaim! and the Vancouver Sun
  • PLAYLIST: Three Little Words on YouTube and Spotify

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20 March 2021

Montreal’s Dominique Fils-Aimé


Relevance with soul

Writing and recording a first album is daunting enough. Mapping out a trilogy to explore the roots and culture of three genres of African-American music – blues, jazz and soul – is a bigger reach than most musicians would go for. But Montreal singer-songwriter Dominique Fils-Aimé shines with her latest collection, Three Little Birds. The Haitian-Canadian singer-songwriter delivers the third and final instalment of her project featuring cool, neo-soul grooves, smooth and impassioned vocals on top of meticulous arrangements riding an undercurrent of political relevance.

Why a trilogy? In an interview with CBC Radio q host Tom Power last week she says it was about passion and sharing Black political and musical history.

“I went back to the roots of what made me passionate about music as a teenager. I realized that all the musical styles that hit me the most were the ones that were teaching me about history – but in an emotional way,” she says.

“There is the music that captures how these artists felt (and) what kind of creation came out of those historical moments. I saw a very clear link between the three specific genres and the link with the time of day, with the primary colours, with elements … and it all felt so clear,” she says about the vision that propelled her to release the blues-based Nameless in 2018, the jazz-styled Juno Award-winning Stay Tuned! in 2019 and the new soul-influenced collection last month.

Celebrating Black history and music

Each song title on Three Little Words is three words long and each one – save Ben E. King’s Stand By Me – is written by Fils-Aimé. All three albums have been released in February – Black History Month.

“I wanted to underline the link between Black history and music genres,” she told the Toronto Star in a recent interview.

The theme of Black struggle is subtly addressed in some of these songs. The beguiling Doo-wop style and light lyrical hopes colouring the first half of While We Wait give way to a more dramatic musical tone and urgent lyric in the second:

Being the change (to change)
Seeing the chains (to change)
While we’re hoping, hoping, changing (hoping, changing)

We can see the chains (to change)
We will be the change (to change)
We will be the change

Similarly, Love Take Over addresses feminism and liberation:

Taking over the same old kingdom
Building empires made of freedom
Making over the brand new queendom
Nurturing the roads that led to freedom

Fils–Aimé’s original songs and superb vocal touch gives her words a warm and welcome setting. Her ambitious trilogy completed, we look forward to what’s next. But first, savour the many highlights on Three Little Words.

~Kris Klaasen


Here are reviews from the New Yorker, Exclaim! and a link to the Vancouver Sun’s review by Stewart Derdeyn



Powered by a love of soul sounds past and present

Julyssa Lopez / The New Yorker

Dominique Fils-Aimé’s voice—a defined, sinewy muscle—guides her across a constellation of genres and eras in a robust trilogy dedicated to the history of Black music. “Nameless,” a throbbing tribute to the blues, from 2018, opens with Fils-Aimé’s chilling update of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” and “Stay Tuned!,” from 2019, finds her sinking warmly into jazz melodies. “Three Little Words,” the sweeping, celebratory end to the project, is powered by her love of soul sounds past and present. Her interpretations of the genre are eclectic and unexpected: she disguises one standout, “While We Wait,” as a weightless doo-wop tune until her harmonies slowly build and transform the song into a dramatic, power-packed anthem urging change.

Using soul music to envision a better future

By Jordan Currie/ Exclaim!

If Dominique Fils-Aimé‘s third studio album, Three Little Words, had to be summed up into one little word, it would have to be “liberation.” It’s a project that bursts at the seams with style and intricacies, clearly garnering more than a single description. Whether breaking free of unfulfilling relationships or standing up to oppressive systems and structures, liberation is written all over Three Little Words, brazenly and unabashedly, through the sound of lush soul.

Three Little Words completes the Montreal-based singer’s album trilogy exploring the roots and culture of African-American music, third in the line up behind her blues-oriented debut, Nameless (2018), and the ’60s jazz-oriented follow-up, Stay Tuned! (2019). The final installment of the trilogy serves as a melting pot for the genres and sounds previously explored, but with soul taking centre stage.

The album is a time capsule, honouring Black history and music, while also offering a glimpse into the future, as Fils-Aimé sings of being the change in the world instead of waiting around for one on the swelling, steady build-up of “While We Wait.” Lead single “Love Take Over” is an anthem of celebrating Black femininity and dismantling the patriarchy. Fils-Aimé’s vocals are deep and smoky, reminiscent of a modern-day Nina Simone with traces of Billie Holiday, as she floats from song to song. 

A blend of sounds and emotions, all distinct but able to meld together to create a cohesive body of work, come together on this album. There’s the striking, layered percussion and harmonies of the titular track, to a minimalist cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” as a delightful closer. Amongst the mix, most of the songs on the record are short and quiet, simmering underneath their calm surfaces with life. Fils-Aimé has certainly achieved a feeling of conclusion with her album trilogy, as Three Little Words serves as its hushed yet powerful final bow. (Ensoul)


Link to the CBC Radio q interview here. It starts at 51.54.

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