Single Review: Rachel Chinouriri - Never Need Me

A vinyl of Rachel Chinouriri’s single “Never Need Me” lying on a blue and white striped carrier bag.  The cover art features Rachel returning from shopping, with packed carrier bags in her hands and walking into a house.

“Never Need Me” is probably going to be the song by which most are introduced to British-Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Rachel Chinouriri, largely because of a music video assist from Florence Pugh. And honestly, it was truly a stroke of genius, because it has resulted in many checking out the video, only to discover that the song is so good that the Midsommar woman becomes a footnote. And it was also a stroke of luck. The video for “Never Need Me” popped up in my YouTube recommendations all because I watched a couple of interviews of Florence Pugh. So, it worked. But “Never Need Me” is no fluke or one off song, and it’s certainly not as out of the blue as it may seem. Everything Rachel has been putting out over the past couple of years has not only felt like it was leading to this moment, but that it was preparing Rachel to be the poster girl for British indie pop to a new generation. It’s a lot and there are so many layers to it, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Florence Pugh and Rachel Chinouriri in a photo on the set of Rachel's music video for "Never Need Me".
Florence Pugh & Rachel Chinouriri - Never Need Me | Parlophone Records

Rachel’s sound wasn’t always indie pop. It started as such, before shifting to a more R&B and soul driven sound, which sat somewhere between Adele and Nao. I know this is a weird-ass description. But it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if somebody at a record label said to Rachel ‘How about you try a something that’s like a cross between Adele and Nao’ because Adele is one of the biggest selling British acts right now and Nao is one of the few Black British women in music who is still active and signed to a major label. Either way, Rachel’s shift to something more R&B adjacent felt like somebody interfering. And whilst her songs weren’t bad, they didn’t say much about her. And as unfortunate as it is to say, she was just another Black face in a Black crowd, because of how so many Black British acts just get lumped together. But thankfully she’s found her way back to what she started off doing. Being the face of a sound which doesn’t usually have faces like hers.

Indie pop suits Rachel’s voice and songwriting style far better than her 2019 - 2021 R&B stint, so there’s that. But she’s also in a genre where there are so few Black girls, which makes her stand out as an anomaly. Black people generally aren’t highly visible in the indie pop scene. We had Kele Okereke of Bloc Party for a minute, but things went quiet for him once he went solo. And there’s Olugbenga Adelekan, the bassist of Metronomy, who is also a credited producer and musician on Solange’s “Don’t Wait For Me” (my favourite song on A Seat at the Table), but he’s not the front man of that group. And then there’s Dev Hynes, who kinda just hovers across genres, but he’s certainly touched on indie pop. So it’s great to have a Black girl say ‘I’M HERE’ in the indie pop genre. A genre in which so few Black girls exist, despite Black people making up a chunk of the audience, contrary to the perception. Just look at Paramore’s fan demographic and how much of it is Black. Rachel pulling up to the block is vindication for fans of the likes of Fefe Dobson, Meet Me at the Altar and Sugababes fans who like when they go a bit Brit pop and indie-lite. Black people are not averse to this style of music. There are just so few of us doing it to get behind it like that. So Rachel could find herself at the start of something really big here. Especially with her single “Never Need Me”, which not only has the potential to resonate with Black audiences who are into the sound and those who are new to it, but to really cross right the way over.

“Never Need Me” in and of itself is a great song. Everything about it is so tight and feels engineered to be a hit. It would not surprise me in the slightest if producer Rich Turvey started to get high profile bookings from the pop girls off the back of this song. And “Never Need Me” has so much potential to cross over and kick start an indie pop wave to come right after or hit alongside the country wave that’s on its way this year. But what helps really sell “Never Need Me” is just how comfortable Rachel seems with it all. Rachel sounds like she’s home in a way she didn’t on the material she was releasing circa 2020.

Despite the high school, Heartstopper-esque hijinks of the music video to “Never Need Me”, which depicts a story of a boyfriend cheating at a birthday party and then having a girls night in to mend her broken heart; the lyrics are far broader and widely relatable. “Never Need Me” is about wholeheartedly not wanting somebody to need you, because you are aware of how that person needing you weighs on you mentally and prevents you from being able to move forward. And I feel this is something many of us have encountered; whether we were the person being weighed down or the person doing the weighing down. But whilst the song is sung from the perspective of a romantic relationship, it can be reframed as a friendship, or even alcoholism and substance abuse if we really wanna stretch and go there. Or even being an artist stuck in a shitty contract with a record label. At its core, “Never Need Me” is about letting go of co-dependency. So it’s a very easy song to identify with. And the fact that it’s wrapped up in this super tight and catchy three and a half minute song, just makes it that much easier to click with and latch onto. But the subject matter being so relatable and nothing new will also help create this cool intersection of fans, because the sentiment of ‘Oh, I really need to get rid of you’ is a subject matter which exists in every genre. And sometimes with music, it’s the message and the familiarity of it which can hit more than the sound.

Rachel Chinouriri in a photo on the set of her music video for "Never Need Me". Wearing a white fur tap with brown straps and her hair in bob, held with iridescent an sparkly hair clips.
Rachel Chinouriri - Never Need Me | Parlophone Records

“Never Need Me” is a great song. As amazing as I find the prospect of Rachel being a Black girl and flourishing in the mainstream as an indie pop girlie, it really does come back to just how good “Never Need Me” is as a song. I can’t fault it. And the cross over appeal it could have is immense. People who just like great pop songs will dig it. The Indie pop crowd will dig it. Those who were into the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World video game soundtrack and like Anamanaguchi will dig it, which means gamers could end up fucking with it too.

Rachel is set to release her debut album What a Devastating Turn of Events on 3 May 2024. And if the likes of “Never Need Me”, “The Hills”, “Ribs” and “Maybe I’m Lonely” (which unfortunately will not be featured on the album) are anything to go by, it’s gonna be an album to look out for. My calendar is already marked.