Danyel Smith's New Book, 'Shine Bright' Calls Attention To The Black Woman Icons In Pop
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Danyel Smith’s New Book, ‘Shine Bright’ Calls Attention To The Black Woman Icons In Pop

Photograph by Maya Iman for The New Yorker

In the April 19 release of Shine Bright, author Danyel Smith chronicles a personal and detailed examination of the groundbreaking Black women who shaped American pop music.

“To say I ‘became’ editor-in-chief of Vibe in 1994—and the first woman and the first Black person to have the job, and the first woman to run a national music magazine—is a criminal abbreviation,” Smith writes in her new book, “Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop.”

(Penguin Random House)

Through her leadership of Vibe magazine and previous editor-in-chief role for Billboard, Smith’s intertwining of biography, criticism, and memoir is intentional.

Smith, who recently attended BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s Women of Power Summit as a moderator, is also the creator and host of the Spotify-exclusive Black Girl Songbook, a music and talk show that centers Black women in music. She has leveraged her pop and hip-hop culture expertise to write her book. She spotlights the intimate details of her personal journey and countless Black women who have also influenced her.

“One of the best parts about writing Shine Bright was to merge the memoir with the biography,” Smith told NPR. “I feel very much [that I don’t want] to explain things to anyone, I want to share with them — my joy, and facts and details about these women.”

The book aims to reclaim these women’s place in music history, from the 1960s hitmakers the Dixie Cups to musical icons such as Gladys Knight, Mahalia Jackson, and Whitney Houston.

“I feel a commonality with women who try to make things, women who are loud, women who say things, women who write things, [who] talk about themselves, sing about themselves,” Smith said. “I feel in league with them.”

Throughout her book, Smith parcels memories from her own life to relate to the issues or journeys these Black women in music have had to navigate themselves. According to the New Yorker, Smith talks about her mother’s boyfriend, whose stifling doubt about her writing gift reminded her of the disrespect and opposition that led these women to advocate for themselves.

“People say, ‘How can you say that Black women in pop don’t get the credit they’re due?’ Oh, they get credit. They don’t get the credit that they’re due. For everything that Beyoncé has, all the Grammys, the albums sold, the world tours, the trendsetting, the influencing, the voice, the putting in work since she was a child, she does not get the credit that she deserves. I’m up for the argument with anybody who wants to try me,” Smith said.


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