Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth
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Artists spend their entire lives writing their first album. At least, that feels like the case with Genesis Owusu’s remarkable debut, Smiling With No Teeth, which finds the Ghanaian-born, Australia-based rapper genre-jumping with grace and telling his story with style.
The themes here are intense and timely; through rap, pop, funk, spoken word, R&B, and a seemingly infinite number of aesthetics piled on top of that, Smiling With No Teeth explores Owusu’s experience as a black man living among a mostly white society. On the bouncing “The Other Black Dog” and propulsive partner track “Black Dogs!”, Owusu looks at how the animal symbolises his “otherness” and the anxiety that comes with that feeling.
With strong, clear-eyed subtext, overlaid by compositions that touch on every influence from TV on the Radio to Prince, Childish Gambino and Radiohead, Smiling With No Teeth is not so much an album as it is a memoir – a story both unique to Owusu and universal to anyone who has ever felt “othered”. RB
Zara Larsson – Poster Girl
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Over the past few years, Scandipop queen Zara Larsson’s tropical house influences have given her an edge over her dance-pop peers; her lyrics have been that touch more empowering. She’s still only 23, and she’s already on her third album.
On Poster Girl, the Swedish artist pushes beyond her signature sound. Sometimes it works: “Need Someone” opens on a lilting piano refrain before evolving into a glittery, Dua Lipa-style disco jam, complete with funky guitar riff. The rousing single “Ruin My Life”, which was released way back in 2018, is as catchy now as it was then. The chirpy refrain of “FFF” (“falling for a friend”) seems to riff on the 1956 Italian classic “Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano” – odd, but fun.
There is some filler here. The glitchy shuffle of “I’m Right Here” isn’t enough to stop your attention drifting during the bland chorus; “I Need Love” suffers from the same issue. I wonder if Larsson boxed herself in with her theme (“I’m obsessed with love”, she told NME in a recent interview), then struggled to find new ways to explore it. Overall, though, Poster Girl has more than enough bops to keep fans happy. ROC