Aluna Francis has nothing against R&B, but when breaking into the music industry she was frustrated when executives would label her as a musician who focused on that genre because of the color of her skin.
“I’ll be honest, I really hardline rejected R&B. It wasn’t because I didn’t like R&B, but I felt that I was being pigeonholed,” Francis told CBS News. “That would make me really angry because it was a judgment -- it was a straight-up judgement.”
That’s when she decided she wanted to break the mold.
Francis has spent her life singing, but she didn’t find her passion for music until she began writing songs with someone she was dating years ago at that time.
“It was really hard and really challenging and I loved it,” the 28-year-old told CBS News. “I couldn’t think about anything else. And then I realized, that’s what passion is.”
The singer, born and bred in the U.K., makes up half of a duo called AlunaGeorge, with Francis acting as the singer-songwriter and George Reid mastering the production and engineering behind their music.
AlunaGeorge is part of a tide of buzz-worthy acts -- Dvsn, Majid Jordan and JSMN, to name a few -- that are blurring the lines between familiar genres. The duo calls its fusion of electronic, pop and alternative “a futuristic sound.”
Francis and Reid first met in 2009 when Reid reached out to her then-band, My Toys Like Me, to ask if he could remix one of their songs. One year later, Francis and Reid were a duo.
Radiohead and Jeff Buckley served as the biggest inspirations for the music Francis wanted to write and record.
“What we’ve noticed is that ever since we’ve started making music, people didn’t really know how to categorize it,” Francis said. “[While recording,] we were often looking for something we haven’t really heard. We would get so excited if we could create something we haven’t heard before.”
After a 2013 collaboration with house duo Disclosure, AlunaGeorge received wider exposure. The duo’s debut album, “Body Music,” was released shortly after.
Now the group has gained major traction in the U.S. with remix of its DJ Snake-assisted single, “You Know You Like It,” which spent 19 weeks on the Billboard charts. The single has amassed over 100 million views on YouTube.
In their most recent single, “Mean What I Mean,” Francis takes a situation in which her boundaries were crossed as a means to empower women.
“I think the broad aspects of that story, most women can relate to,” Francis said. “Being in a situation where someone is not treating you with respect and you’re trapped in this awkward moment where you’ve lost your own confidence, and you’re saying no -- the other person is strongly disagreeing with your ability to know what you want. I [thought], ‘Whoa, this can’t happen to me again.’”
Earlier this month, AlunaGeorge released its sophomore effort, “I Remember.” Francis said one of her goals is to not only break musical barriers but to inspire women of color to be their most authentic selves.
“One of my strong motivations is being able to show young black girls that there’s lots of ways you can be,” Francis said. “You can go and be obsessed with comics. You can be obsessed with metal music; you can write poetry. I at least want to open the door for different characters -- an unbounded character -- to be accepted as a black female.”