Activism

Wellington Bullings Ignites a Spark With New Single "Flame"

Wellington Bullings just debuted a fiery new single.
Wellington Bullings just debuted a fiery new single. Meg MacDonald
For Boulder-based singer and songwriter Wellington Bullings, music has always been a path to building connections and finding community. When she was young, her Jamaican father played ska and reggae music to introduce her to her Jamaican roots. "Growing up listening to reggae and a lot of old-fashioned ska was my way of connecting to my heritage, and that's a way that my dad also connects to his roots," Bullings explains. "He cooks the most incredible Jamaican cuisine, and he puts on a lot of reggae. That's what always reminds me of my childhood, so it's very dear to my heart. It was a way for me to connect to my heritage, and to become curious about other styles of music."

Now, as a working musician dabbling in jazz, soul and R&B (among other genres), Bullings has just released a new single titled "Flame"; an accompanying music video, a collaborative effort with other Black artists and several Black-owned businesses, will drop on November 10. The song is a tribute to the beauty and resilience of the Black community, written last year after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

"I wrote the song in 2020, when we experienced a lot of the resurfacing of racial injustice, and it was my way to respond to what was going on at the time," Bullings says. "I think that music is very powerful; it can change our moods, it can change the way we think about the world, it can change so much with how we perceive ourselves. I think that having a strong message that can connect to a lot of people can create a spark of motivation for change. It can inspire people to move in that direction, so I felt like the best way I could do that was through music."

"Flame" is a song that Bullings has been wanting to write for a long time, and after the trauma that members of the Black community experienced last year, she felt a sudden urgency to make the idea a reality. "I've always wanted to write a song about this, because being a Black woman, I have these experiences, I've dealt with a lot of these things throughout my life," she says. "But I just felt an extra push and an extra motivation to write about it at that time because of the intensity around all the racial injustice we were experiencing at once. I felt compelled to write it in that moment because I wanted to deal with it internally, and it was also a way to express what was going on."


The "Flame" video begins with Bullings lighting a candle, representing the spark that ignites a movement. - MEG MACDONALD
The "Flame" video begins with Bullings lighting a candle, representing the spark that ignites a movement.
Meg MacDonald

Creatives around the globe, especially Black creatives, responded to the surge in police brutality by making art that explores the relationship between Black identity, white supremacy and state-sponsored violence. But Bullings wanted to do something different. Rather than focus on the grief and suffering of the Black community, "Flame" aims to revitalize and uplift the community's spirit.

"When we talk about Black people in the media, we're often associated with victimhood," Bullings notes. "I feel like it's important to talk about and celebrate all the other things we have to offer in this world, so I really wanted to focus more on a positive narrative. I wanted to put something out there that was more empowering and talks less about how much of a victim we are. Even though we've experienced a lot of suffering and challenges for centuries, I really wanted to focus more on just how powerful and resilient and beautiful Black people are."

"Flame" opens with gentle chanting and humming, then builds to an invigorating crescendo at the chorus, where Bullings's impressive vocal control and range are on full display. Simple instrumentals and background vocals support her honeyed voice without ever competing for the spotlight, letting earnest lyrics like "Your voice is fire and it can't be tamed/Don't water down your power or your rage" shine. After penning the moving ballad, Bullings decided to explore the idea behind the song further by creating an accompanying music video showcasing mostly local Black models, businesses, fashion designers, dancers and other professionals.

"The whole project just started to build the more I put into it, so of course I was focused on the song; I wanted it to be just about the song," she recalls. "But then I realized that it wasn't enough to just write the music — there needed to be powerful visuals. I wanted it to really hit harder."


The video collaboration was also an opportunity for Bullings to put the spirit of "Flame" into practice by giving fellow Black creatives a platform. "I decided that I would create a music video, but I would also incorporate a lot of collaborations with Black-owned businesses, particularly local, female-owned businesses," she says. "That was very important to me, because that's what the song is about, so I wanted to relay that on every single level. I wanted the visuals to be less about telling a specific story and more about creating a powerful aesthetic that people connect to."

Bullings's makeup in the "Flame" video was done by Gabby Fisher. - MEG MACDONALD
Bullings's makeup in the "Flame" video was done by Gabby Fisher.
Meg MacDonald

"I just reached out — I did some research on different local fashion designers, and dancers, and people in my community who are really making a splash with their art," explains Bullings. She ended up working with videographer and director Katrina Miller; local fashion designers Jasmine Lewis, Tyne Hall and Felicia Williams; models Jessi Kalambayi and Rebecca Hartt; dancers Samiyah Lynnice and Corey Jamell of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance; and one out-of-state business, Lace and Pearls Jewelry. She wanted to work with as many Black women as possible, such as Miller, who owns the Colorado-based production company Blackat Video Productions. "She had already been working on other projects that were similar to this message, so it felt right to go with her, and she's an incredible videographer," Bullings says.

From the artists involved to the color scheme of each scene, every detail of the "Flame" video is an intentional choice made by Bullings. "There are cotton flowers, and earrings that say Black Lives Matter, little glimpses of symbolism throughout. I wanted it to be as meaningful as possible," she says. The video as a whole illustrates the extended metaphor of the song rather than depicting a cohesive narrative: "The flame is a metaphor for that light and resilience that doesn't burn out within Black people, so in the beginning of the video, a woman lights the candle, and it's like one person creates that domino effect. Every scene represents something different."

Bullings's white dress and flame crown in the music video were made by local designer Jasmine Lewis. - MEG MACDONALD
Bullings's white dress and flame crown in the music video were made by local designer Jasmine Lewis.
Meg MacDonald

As the melody of the song ebbs and flows, the mood of the video shifts accordingly. "There's this back-and-forth of going from the darkness into the light, and the music has that back-and-forth feel to it as well," Bullings says. "We have the scene with the dancers in the beginning where they're in the darkness, and that represents being in that dark place of oppression and not knowing where to go. And then we go into the gold scene, which is brighter, and there are things to celebrate. That scene represents more power and more elegance, and rising above that. "

While determined not to paint the Black community as victims in her art, Bullings still wanted to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives as a result of racism. The final frame of the "Flame" video is a staggering list of names of Black Americans murdered by law enforcement, accompanied by the dedication "May Your Flame Shine On."

"It feels heavy to mention these names in a project, but I felt that it was my way of contributing to moving forward and making change," explains Bullings. "Even if it's in a small way, I wanted to honor the people who have passed away, and I didn't want people to forget that these experiences happen. Because even though a lot of people woke up to the fact that racism is still such a big part of our history here and it's something that we still experience today, people tend to fall asleep when we stop putting a highlight on those issues. Though we are moving forward and there is so much to celebrate in terms of how far we've come, we still need to honor those who have paved the way, and people who have died because of this."

This red fringe dress was made by local fashion designer Felicia Williams. - MEG MACDONALD
This red fringe dress was made by local fashion designer Felicia Williams.
Meg MacDonald

Bullings is now planning a follow-up to her 2020 debut album, Because I Want To. "I'm currently working on a new project, a full-length album, and I also have a couple of singles that I'll be releasing prior to that," she says. "I'm really excited about it, because it's very different from my last project. More music videos, more singles. I hope to do a tour next year, and just continue to perform, write, record and put out material consistently."

Wellington Bullings's "Flame" is available now for streaming and download on all music platforms; watch the video for "Flame" on Bullings's YouTube channel starting November 10.
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Cleo Mirza recently graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in English and anthropology. She enjoys good food, cheap wine and the company of her dog, Rudy.
Contact: Cleo Mirza