MNEK: Language review – a beautifully crafted solo debut

(Virgin EMI)

Uzoechi Emenike is 23, but first signed a publishing deal at the age of 14. The south Londoner has written for Madonna, Kylie and Beyoncé, and hauled home barrowloads of chart placings and awards while impatience grew for his own album. He’s perfectly poised, but a false step now might be fatal.

Thankfully, MNEK, he is at pains to remind us on his solo debut, doesn’t make false steps; he’s far too assiduous a scholar of prime pop production – Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the Neptunes, Teddy Riley – to slip up. “I was getting paid before I was getting drunk” he asserts on Correct, a playful, dancehall-inflected brag. Tongue deftly deploys hair-flicking retro flourishes, an impeccable modern crispness and an irresistible “tippee-too-tippee-tee-tippee-ta-ta-ta” refrain, while Girlfriend alludes to the staccato delivery of Destiny’s Child as MNEK admonishes a lover who isn’t being true to his other other half: “neither you or your story’s straight”.

It’s a beautifully crafted, upbeat pop album, and MNEK’s voice is compelling and gorgeous; the only small quibble is it’s a tad long.Colour , a triumphal duet with Hailee Steinfeld, feels a little tacked on in an effort to emulate the success of his Zara Larsson collab Never Forget You, and the conversational between-song interludes likewise feel a little extraneous, if all part and parcel of MNEK’s unique, mellifluous Language.

Watch the video for Colour.


Emily Mackay

The GuardianTramp

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