Smith deftly weaves her love for the tunes generated by the pioneering African American women in pop music over the last six decades with her personal story of perseverance ... A seasoned editor and journalist, Smith tackles one of pop music’s core truths — that without Black women (some who are widely known, and many who never got their just due), there is no genre. Her case is made through rich biographical portraits of the likes of Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, and Boston’s Donna Summer ... In addition to her personal accounts, Smith beautifully incorporates interviews with some of the artists who helped her through dark days ... Smith tells their stories with great detail, but perhaps more significantly, she demonstrates how varied their experiences were ... After sharing the conclusion of the evening — how Eddie Levert of the O’Jays stepped in to make sure the situation didn’t escalate further — Smith moves immediately to the coroner’s report from Houston’s death the night before the 2012 Grammys. It’s one of many stark pivots that make Shine Bright so compelling ... Music memories are human memories. Danyel Smith gets that. The fascinating and unexpected stories she uncovers wouldn’t fit together neatly in a book if not for the glue that binds them all together — Smith herself. When working through Shine Bright it’s possible every reader will remember the artists and moments differently. But that’s the point Smith is making.
... radiates brilliance ... dazzling prose ... As Smith teases out the immeasurable influence of both underappreciated background singers and idols who are household names, she illuminates the qualities these artists have in common ... Combining the emotional fervor of a fan and the cleareyed vision of a critic, Smith charts a luminous new history of Black women’s music.
Smith interweaves heartfelt stories of her own life as she provides evidence of the continual erasure of Black women’s contributions to the evolving music industry, even as they upended all cultural norms and created unprecedented sounds ... In this fascinating tribute, Smith ensures that the achievements of these Black women musicians will not be forgotten.