Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

michael kr

Michael Kiwanuka
Love & Hate
Polydor Records

Ultra Classy and Effortlessly Boundary Transcending Songs.

As one of the few places on terrestrial TV to see contemporary music, Later with Jools Holland is a ‘must see’ at Rocking Magpie Towers; even if it can be a trifle disappointing these days. But; every season they unearth a real gem and that’s what they did last year when Michael Kiwanuka ‘performed’ in 2011; just before the release of his debut album.
A mad year followed; then he disappeared off my radar until he turned up on that programme again singing Black Man in a White World.
Socks were knocked off all over the UK that night.
And now; we have his second album Love & Hate. But has the wait been worth it?
The album opens with the long orchestral and almost cinematic Cold Little Heart. A very brave choice as it’s 10 minutes long and over 5 minutes in before Kiwanuka actually begins singing; but when he does……swoon.
This is followed by Black Man in a White World; a song that just may change his life forever. It’s very ‘radio friendly’ with a catchy chorus; but unlike everything else here is overtly ‘Political’ with a capital P; and with everything that is happening across the world at the moment; primarily in the USA but also parts of UK and Europe this amazing song could be the anthem of the summer for many disaffected young people.
Songs like this come around once in a generation and this truly is ‘one of those songs.’
The title track, Love & Hate is just as striking; even if I did miss the underlying thread the first time I heard it; and many others will; but just like Sam Cooke and Harry Belafonte before him; he has hidden a very strong message in a lovely Pop Song.
Citing the likes of Marvin Gaye, Terry Callier, Isaac Hayes AND John Lennon as heroes and influences it’s not really surprising that this isn’t just Soul, Jazz, Blues, Funk or indeed Pop but a gorgeous hybrid of all of them including the the politics of Hip-Hop.
There has been a squabble at RMHQ over the ‘favourite’ track award; betting without Black Man in a White World of course; Mrs. Magpie insists it’s the beautiful The Final Frame, which closes the disc but for me (I’m a softy) it has to be Fathers Child a song that can be heard on two levels; obviously ‘from a son to a father’ but Kiwanuka wrote it as a way of explaining his faith in God. It deliberately tugs at the heartstrings but at 7 minutes long will never get played on the radio; but it sort of caught me unawares on a night I was feeling a bit ‘weepy’ and therefore it becomes ‘my choice.’
There’s a lot to take in here. On the one hand it reminded me of Seal’s first two albums, and even Diamond Life by Sade; and I guess the PR will re-direct a lot of Adele fans this way; but there is so much more to Love & Hate than that…..these songs bite and have more edge than Mt. Everest.
Baring in mind how ‘polished’ Love & Hate is; there are some incredibly brave selections here; showing us that the young man born in Uganda but brought up in England after his family were expelled by the monster Idi Amin, is very much his own man and will stand or fall by his own choices and songs. Judging by the content here…..he will not just stand tall, but has the ability to rise beyond all current recognition.


Released July 15th 2016

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