Ari Lennox Is Searching for a Radical Love


Her generation of R&B singers is more upfront about their careless streaks, less inclined toward gushy love songs. “Maybe there could be more marriage music,” she wonders aloud, standing in the middle of her hotel room after leaving the nail salon, while her stylist does a fitting with her. Lennox then tries to think of shady R&B songs of yore for comparison. “‘Where I Wanna Be,’ by Donell Jones!” she says, animated. She considers the song’s sentiment about leaving a relationship instead of cheating. “It sounds like a love song, but he is being so damn selfish! It’s sweet you’re communicating, yes. But boy! Those are the guys that break your heart,” she sighs, before conceding that it’s still beautiful.

On the topic of bad dates, Lennox has many stories. She once met a guy who showed up 20 minutes late, wore shades during dinner, and whose friends mysteriously showed up at the restaurant. “I listened to him talk, and then, in the end, I felt like he rushed so he could go hang out with his friends.”

Lennox would like to believe she’s less naive now that she’s sworn off courting unsuitable lovers. Her most recent romance ended earlier this year. “Through my last relationship, I realized there are patterns. I was attracting the same person. [They were] attracting me as well,” she says. “Now, I’m really comfortable being alone. I’m not lowering my standards. I’m not chasing anymore.” She’s quick to swallow her pride and end a relationship before it implodes publicly. “I will call before we’re on The Shade Room all day going at each other. I’m already ratchet enough in other ways,” she deadpans. “The last thing I want is my romance out there for everyone to see and judge.”

Even half-dressed in front of a stranger, Lennox is frank and contemplative, reflecting on what she wasn’t taught about relationships growing up. “I was kind of raising myself in that way,” she says. “I didn’t have warnings from my father. He was more like, ‘Don’t wear that!’ Which is so ignorant. It’s not about what I’m wearing. Teach me what a red flag is, or love me so that maybe I’m not looking for love in the wrong places.” She experienced another kind of breakup this year too—a falling out with a childhood friend who’d stolen from her. Though Lennox says she held onto the friendship for too long, it also helped her realize her own flaws.

Lennox eases out of a Lapointe midi dress as her stylist dresses her in another outfit. I ask her if love is more challenging for young people to find these days. “I’m sorry, but I feel like, with older generations, people were settling,” she laughs. “I don’t think a lot of people were that happy. You hear about people that stay together forever, but it’s like, what was going on behind closed doors? I know that’s a very negative and cynical outlook, but it’s always been hell. People get to a point where it’s like, ‘Man, fuck it. We like each other enough to not walk out on each other.

It’s true, love is a crapshoot in any era. But the digital world has completely reshaped people’s approach to modern dating, much of which remains hard for anyone to navigate, let alone an artist who’s still learning who she is. Lennox is a voice for women doing their best to be brave without compromising. “We do have options when you think about it,” she says, coming around to the idea of searching again. “There’s so many people out there. So many! So it’s not the worst thing to lose love.”

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