Singer-songwriter Isabel Usher (23) broke through on TikTok with English versions of well-known Dutch songs, and vice versa. her song I’m Coming Home Again about Amsterdam went viral among Ajax fans. Now there is a new version, for the whole of the Netherlands.
‘I’ll be back, I’ll be home again, because nothing is more beautiful than the Albert Cuyp. I miss the light and sounds of the crowded streets of my Amsterdam. And I’ve been gone too long, I saw the world but still it remained empty. So I’m coming home again, I know it took a long time, I never want to leave Amsterdam.’
With these lines, singer and lyricist Isabel Usher conquered the hearts of many Amsterdammers via TikTok this year. “I was walking in the supermarket and heard the song Coming Home by P. Diddy and Skylar Grey, my brain hit it right away. At home I wrote this text about Amsterdam in one go, I recorded the song and posted it on my TikTok account. The song immediately went viral.”
The whole verse is only thirty seconds long, but it stirs up a lot of emotions. “Ajax fans in particular put the song under football videos and the F-Side shared my clip via their social media channels. I even got all kinds of messages and voice memos from F-Siders asking me if I didn’t want to make a song specifically about Ajax. And on the terrace I was recognized by a girl. She told me that her father, a true Amsterdammer, is seriously ill. She had shared the song in the family group app and everyone was emotional. The fact that I can touch people with my music is the best compliment I can receive as a songwriter.”
Rotterdam on request
After the song about Amsterdam, Usher also made a song especially for Rotterdam and Groningen. “It was never my intention to make multiple versions, but I got so many requests from people from other cities that I did it anyway. The version about Rotterdam did not go down well with all Amsterdammers, I understood that afterwards. “How could you do that?” Amsterdammers asked me. Other people reacted angrily to the songs because I’m not from those cities myself; I was born in England and grew up in Drenthe.”
With the idea to please everyone, she released a very last version, this time for the whole country. “In the text I pay tribute to the Netherlands by Johan Cruijff and Clarence Seedorf, by Peter R. de Vries, Ronnie Flex and Frenna. From Febo and Albert Heijn, saoto soup and speculaas.”
“It didn’t have to become a sweet song, I also mention the imperfect things of the Netherlands. Like that there is room here for everyone, but only if it suits us. It is often the less pleasant things that you miss when you are far from home, so in my song in addition to all the beautiful things, it is also about full trams, gray skies and sheltering from the showers, standing in traffic for hours and stolen bicycles .”
Usher started writing lyrics after graduating. “For my profile assignment I made a film with a few friends about a girl with anorexia. I wrote the title song, a sensitive song, which I sang myself. That tasted like more, a teacher also urged me to continue writing lyrics. When I was seventeen, I sent all the major music labels a confident email offering myself as a songwriter and singer. I could write and sing a dance track: Droeloe from Sunburn. The song became a hit in Asia, a bizarre experience.”
After HAVO, Usher hesitated between studying at the Herman Brood Academy and the Communication and Multimedia Design course. “I chose the latter because I was afraid that I would lose the fun and originality as a lyricist during a music course.”
Still, writing and singing did not let her go. When she suddenly had seas of time during the corona pandemic, she decided to fully immerse herself in music. Usher again emailed managers of artists she wanted to work with, from David Guetta to Martin Garrix. But the ball really started rolling when she decided to approach the managers of Dutch artists. “I was soon allowed into the studio. I wrote Stranger To Me for Sigourney K and Solo for Zoe Tauran and Bilal Wahib.” Both songs went gold and platinum and put both the artists and Usher on the map.
“The more I wrote for others, the more I felt the need to start singing my own songs,” says Usher. “I find performing and the spotlight quite scary, but I noticed that I also started to regret giving away my own sauce to others.” That ‘own sauce’ consists of emotionally tinted lyrics in which Usher plays with language. The rhyme schemes are inspired by the hip-hop tracks she’s been listening to since childhood.
Usher breaks through as a solo artist when she starts with her own interpretations of existing hits. The very first song she records in her apartment and shares on TikTok is an English-language version of stardust from The Youth of Today; it instantly gets her thousands of views. In the comments Faberyayo even responds to the song: where is the translation of his verse? “The song I recorded afterwards was a Dutch translation by Stromaes papaoutai, it went viral instantly. Then I knew that this is what I want to continue to do for the time being.”
One hundred thousand followers
Usher now has 100,000 followers on TikTok and her songs are viewed and listened to millions of times. It also gives her other work, such as writing a song for a movie on the Amazon Prime streaming channel. “I skip the offers to work with an anti-pimple cream or a teeth whitener, something has to really suit me. But when a great brand like Adidas calls me, I certainly don’t say no.”
This summer she brought Sucker for Fame off, based on Suck for love from The Opposites: “They are my number one inspiration when it comes to Dutch hip hop. That both The Opposites and Mr. Probz have let me know that they are behind my version of their song, I consider it a huge honor.”
That Usher’s version of I’m Coming Home Again about the Netherlands right now is no coincidence. “The World Cup starts in Qatar on November 20. I hope this song also goes viral, just like my songs about the cities, and that it gets picked up on the radio and through social media just as well. How great would it be if football fans would sing it along in the stands during the matches of the Dutch national team!”