Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Genesis Owusu superbly pushes through adversities with STRUGGLER


Release date: 18 August 2023
Genesis Owusu STRUGGLER cover
17 August 2023, 09:00 Written by Ross Horton

After bursting onto the international scene with his critically acclaimed debut album, Smiling with No Teeth, Genesis Owusu now steps into the spotlight once again with STRUGGLER.

The promises made before release were that the album would go deep into the turmoil and absurdity that life often throws our way, inviting us to explore the resilience that lies within us.

While his debut delved into the battles against depression and racism, STRUGGLER shifts focus to the art of pushing through those adversities. The album's inspiration draws from a close friend's remarkable journey back from the edge, combined with Owusu's own musings on life and beauty – prompted by his contemplative readings of Samuel Beckett’s existential masterpiece Waiting for Godot and Franz Kafka’s daunting treatise on identity, The Metamorphosis (often in very literal terms).

Opener “Leaving the Light” leads with an insistent, robotic beat that’s more horror movie than club banger. It’s indicative of the paranoid, overbearing atmospheres at play throughout the record. The Kafka reference he made in the press kit makes sense in this light, one supposes.

That mood just deepens and coagulates on the next cut “The Roach” – and the lyrics make explicit reference to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (and there’s even a cheeky reference to some prime Brandon Flowers lyrical nonsense too). There’s no room for subtext at all, with Owusu stating his mental struggles in the most overt terms.

“Old Man” and “See Ya There” are about as contrasting in tone as the album allows. The former is thunderous, powerful and muscular, while the latter is silky smooth, sexy soul. “Freak Boy” continues the earlier lyrical themes, but spreads them over a lithe and even danceable beat. “Tied Up” is a playful, Prince-adjacent funk with Owusu’s customary sinister edge.

Elsewhere on the record, there’s colourful psychedelic pop (“That’s Life”), moody, gothic garage rock (“Balthazar”), and an angelic vocal performance melted onto an ethereal drum ‘n’ bass beat (“What Comes Will Come”).

Concept albums – because that’s essentially what this is, only the concept is identity as interpreted through the work of heavyweight literature – are rarely this diverse, rarely this enjoyable. It’s a fantastic example of how artists can still come to a project with tonnes of contextual flavour that they want to include and not have it overpower the entire dish. STRUGGLER is superb, with the distinct feeling that there’s still more to come.

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