Words by Percy Walker-Smith
Released in November of last year, Michael Kiwanuka’s third album, Kiwanuka, soared to number two in the album charts at the time and has now skyrocketed to the highest heights as the winner of The Hyundai Mercury Prize 2020. This prize awards the ‘Album of the Year’ and is decided by a panel of 12 judges.
Kiwanuka has been amongst twelve artists shortlisted for ‘Album of the Year’ on three separate occasions. For an artist that has released three albums in his career, to be shortlisted on each occasion for the Mercury Prize is a huge achievement in itself. It should not be much of a surprise that this consistency in making sonically ingenious records has landed Kiwanuka with the honour of winning a mercury prize. However, Kiwanuka told the BBC at the time of winning the prize; “It’s blown my mind, music is all I’ve ever wanted to do, so I’m over the moon.” Clearly the singer is still surprised with his winning of the prize despite his total of three shortlisting’s.
Kiwanuka’s name will appear amongst some of the ‘greats’ who have also won the Mercury Prize. Dizzee Rascal, Arctic Monkeys and Primal Scream are some of the Prize’s previous winners that have all collected the £25,000 prize money and the future success of selling records to the masses with a newfound Mercury Prize reputation.
Kiwanuka has already demonstrated his ability to sell a multitude of records. However, it is the beauty and majesty of his music that attracts those listeners.
The opener of this record, ‘You Ain’t The Problem’, is the artist affirming that he must drop his imposter syndrome as he tells the BBC, “This isn’t helping anyone, least of all me.” Its rhythm and rhyme that cascade upon over-driven guitar, give your feet a reason to move and your head a reason to bop up and down. The track has so many quirks to it that make it so loveable; from the upbeat bongo drumming patterns to the slow, smooth funk-riddled guitar solo to the powerful staccato trumpeting. Of course, we must not forget the great vocals that broaden the track into a soulful success. ‘Rolling’, rolls, in a melodic soulfulness that must be listened to, to be believed. Kiwanuka’s voice is perfectly bound by a range of differing accompaniments. The diversity of the tracks that draws the listener in; the slow ballads to the heavy basslines. Kiwanuka, has done it all within fourteen tracks.
Picture Credits: Soundwavedesigner