Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again (Polydor)
April 26, 2012 by Daniel Gill
There’s always a sceptical feeling when you see someone come first place in BBC’s Sound of… poll. The artists who have won this in past have been a mixed bunch, there’s been flash in the pans (Corrine Bailey Rae), world dominator’s (Adele) and then the talent that should have been recognised a bit more then they should of (Little Boots). This year’s winner is the soulful Michael Kiwanuka, he fought off the likes of smooth talking Frank Ocean, New York’s coolest Friends and the new face of dubstep Skrillex. Many peoples reactions to this was “Huh?”, no one really could fathom what Kiwanuka could bring to the British music scene as he was fronting a genre which was never really known for breaking out exciting new stars.
Home Again is Kiwanuka’s debut LP and from listening to this, it’s still unclear where he fits in with the likes of Adele, Little Boots, Mika etc. It’s hard to place him into a category and this could be a good thing, but now the BBC have chosen him as the big sound of 2012, pretty much everyone is expecting him to have a fantastic year. This means the British public will have to embrace Kiwanuka’s soulful, bluesy acoustic pop and I don’t think they are ready for this just yet as 90% of them are still hooked on the more upbeat Ed Sheeran and Jessie J vomit which is on constant repeat everywhere.
Kiwanuka’s debut LP is fine, comfortable, nice, it’s nothing ground breaking and it isn’t going to set the world alight but he has got a sublime voice for someone of his age. His tone his gruff and seems full of experience, this tricks you into thinking Kiwanuka is some soul veteran who’s played everywhere from the blue’s clubs of New Orleans to the jazz bar’s of Paris. However he hasn’t, he is completely fresh on the scene, he’s not some reincarnation of Bill Wither’s or Muddy Water’s. This somehow gives his downbeat tales of love and loneliness seem slightly more believable then they should be.
The problem with Home Again is that it still doesn’t make Kawinuka’s concrete transition from soul to pop, when this is what it should be doing. Tracks like ‘Home Again’ and ‘I’m Getting Ready’ are the ones which you can see being commercial hits but the rest of the album doesn’t follow suit. The production makes it feel more like an independent release, an LP which isn’t aiming for nothing more then respect from genre fanatics and blog scrollers. Songs stroll by in acoustic fashion sprinkled with orchestration and your typical instruments that you would find in a jazz-styled release. Nothing really stands out from the collection of songs here apart from the ones that are known already.
It’s not clear where Michael Kawinuka will be by the time BBC release there next batch of “ones to watch” artists for 2013. He could be well on his way to chart stardom, or he could be stuck in a stagnant genre with nowhere to go. Obviously Home Again shows potential for a talented singer to rise in today’s music scene but that rise may come in the future, and not just yet.