Giving credence that it takes two to tango, The Neptunes show their prescience in their production of Kenna’s sophomore release Make Sure They See My Face. Say what you want about Pharrell and his embrace of the rock star life, the guy is a musical genius.
Channel surfing one night I heard this track on Letterman.
I thought it was a new N.E.R.D. track, but didn’t catch the first part and discover that it was actually a track off Kenna’s album released last October, the single entitled Say Goodbye To Love. It’s a really good pop song. That’s all you can really say about it. It’s the sort of pop music we never get to hear anymore. It harkens back to the 80s fiercely, but the bottom line is that it’s pretty sweet.
Kenna is an Ethiopian-born, American-raised singer who really likes music. It’s clear because he can’t pick a genre. The record labels hate that, because then their marketing folks don’t know how to pitch you to a public that they believe are too stupid to listen to stuff they like on the same album. Well, Kenna takes that thing to a whole new level. He tries to be his own person on Makes Sure They See My Face and yet, wants to make everyone get tricked into believing U2 released a new album too.
If you don’t believe me, fire up the track “Be Still” or “Baptized in Blacklight” and you’ll be sure it’s not anyone but U2. It might have been a clever trick to get the radio stations to pick up some of these tracks or get some rebel DJ to dig the album and play it and get everyone hooked on it. That’s still possible, I guess. But doesn’t exactly bode well as a real strategy for artist growth.
But make no mistake, Kenna is a real deal. He’s talented as hell and he’s not just being buoyed by the production team he’s employed in childhood buddies Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. No sir, he’s one of those unique talents who are supposed to be suppressed and have the hope killed out of them before they make it this far, so the labels can keep giving us the retreads they want us to rock out to.
Other tracks on the album that are worth listening to are “Wide Awake” and Neptunes production finger-print “Loose Wires/Blink Radio” which is a club jam that harkens back to the early 1990s and summers I can recall vividly on the Jersey Shore. (And I mean that as a compliment) “Sun Red, Sky Blue” is another really good pop song. Other standouts include “Phantom Always.”
The entire album is worth listening to from start to finish, because it’s meant to be an experience, I think and it sounds more cohesive that way, even if some of the tracks leave you not sure you want to hear them at first.
This album is best described as an abstract concept album that has so much going on that you’ll either love it or absolutely hate it. I doubt there will be much in-between, because you’ll either get through the whole thing and appreciate the artistry or you’ll despise the scatterbrained nature of it.
I don’t think it’s perfect by any means, but the ambitiousness of the entire concept, the execution and artistry are really what put it together for me in the end. Most artists wouldn’t have the talent or vision — let alone the courage — to release something like this.