American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—written by one of the preeminent cultural critics of her generation. 

A weave of biography, criticism, and memoir, Shine Bright is Danyel Smith’s intimate history of Black women’s music as the foundational story of American pop. Smith has been writing this history for more than five years. But as a music fan, and then as an essayist, editor (Vibe, Billboard), and podcast host (Black Girl Songbook), she has been living this history since she was a latchkey kid listening to “Midnight Train to Georgia” on the family stereo. 

Smith’s detailed narrative begins with Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who sang her poems, and continues through the stories of Mahalia Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Mariah Carey, as well as the under-considered careers of Marilyn McCoo, Deniece Williams, and Jody Watley. 

Shine Bright
is an overdue paean to musical masters whose true stories and genius have been hidden in plain sight—and the book Danyel Smith was born to write.
“Smith, host of the music podcast Black Girl Songbook, combines memoir, cultural history, and criticism in this masterful examination of the Black women artists who’ve indelibly shaped American popular music. . . . Smith offers a sharply written survey of the Black women who blazed the trail . . . [and] the ways in which Black voices were ‘the very genes of popular American soul, R&B, and rock ’n’ roll’ yet often went uncredited. . . . This lyrical and whip-smart work is a cause for celebration.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)