Imani Williams

Imani Williams makes sangria-soaked rhythms for the hottest summer in history.

SOME SONGS are crafted to be brooded over alone, headphones on and lights low. Others are better blasted on sun-baked beach bars in places like Mykonos or the more commercial pool-sides of Ibiza, ice buckets heaving with Jeroboams of rosé nearby, euphoric vibes aplenty and a buoyant, sweaty crowd surrounding you. It’s fair to say that “I Don’t Need No Money” – the latest release from 16-year-old popdiva- in-the-making Imani Williams – falls in the latter camp. Expect tropical house inflections, a soaring beat, and that ubiquitous yet moreish chart-storming flavour that’s hard not to enjoy on some primal, foot-tapping level.

The west London-born teenager clearly knows how to make a hit: little wonder when you hear she wrote her first song aged 10. “It was about changing the world or something like that. Pretty weird for a 10-year-old,” she tells me. Weird or not, it was a strong start for Williams, and one that she spent the next four years building on until, at 14, her singing tutor introduced her to a management company. “I prepared an acoustic song and I sang to them,” she recalls. “Then they put me in a room with a producer and I wrote half a rough song and they heard it and signed me on the spot – which is completely insane!”

Culottes and coat ACNE STUDIOS, Bra IMANI’S OWN

Culottes and coat ACNE STUDIOS, Bra IMANI’S OWN

From there, while studying at the BRIT School, Williams was thrown into the lab with burgeoning hit-maker Sigala (“the funniest guy you will meet in the studio”) and given a crash course developing her writing before being signed to Sony at 15. Curious to know how she balanced school with a nascent music career, I find out Williams was homeschooled after signing her contract – to better focus on her music. Nonetheless, she admits: “There was definitely a time in my life where it was a bit hectic. I mean, I’ve only just finished my GCSEs so I’m focusing more on music now, but when I was juggling the coursework, the performing, the writing, my track being out on the radio, it was definitely interesting.”

That’s one word for it. Surreal is another. “I went to my first ever gig at MTV Live and the audience was 30,000 people and I had an English GCSE in the morning,” she recalls. “I was Hannah Montana. Double life.” The Best of Both Worlds, then.

Pesky GCSEs out the way, Williams is now working on her music full time, filming music videos in Jamaica and LA (perhaps the source of her sun-kissed sound) and, understandably, loving it. Oh, and if that MTV Live crowd seemed like a baptism of fire, her gig at Capital’s Summertime Ball in June in front of 80,000 people at Wembley was even more nerve-wracking – “a pinch myself moment,” according to Williams.

Although there’s no album date pencilled in yet, Williams assures me that when it does surface, the record will have a “really eclectic sound — from dancier stuff to poppier stuff.” As for her natural groove, she explains, smilingly: “My own thing is a bit of a pop anthem mix, with explosive sounds. I like big sounds.”

As Bieber and Calvin Harris would confirm, so does the rest of the world right now. Something tells me that for this wunderkind, the summer party won’t be over for a long time yet.

Barney Frost
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Benji Walters
Cathy Ennis using BUMBLE AND BUMBLE and BBCURL

Thanks to Shelford Place Studios

Imani Williams

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