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Can Kiwanuka Claim the Soul Crown?

November 17, 2011

Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

A new British soul singer hyped to rival the greats. What makes him different?

Let’s get the comparisons out the way first: Bill Whithers, Otis Redding, Van Morrison, The Temptations… a musical shopping list of soul greats. It is quite something to be likened to – and music aficionados have never been shy to use superlatives when hyping the next big thing – but for this 23 year old it’s hard not to join in.

Kiwanuka does himself no favours in repelling the comparisons; instead one is compelled to mention them. Sure, there is nothing new about the 23 year old Londoner’s retro Soul:  he is almost Bill Whithers reincarnate and his latest EP cover is an unashamed pastiche of a 1970s soul LP. So why does he deserve more attention than Liam Bailey or Marcus Foster?

It’s a difficult question on paper, until you listen to his latest offering ‘Home Again’ from his third EP to be released in the New Year. At first, it’s a gentle rolling acoustic ode to finding an emotionally settled place again with a loved one. Then, just after a minute, a beautifully subtle orchestral backing adds swathes of emotion and the song hits heart-wrenching status. His oeuvre so far has been a decent stab at soul, though it is the forthcoming EP that suggests a growing maturity. Kiwanuka’s voice isn’t yet rich enough to rival the greats, but going on Home Again, his song writing certainly has the potential to take him close.

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