Genesis Owusu — Smiling with No Teeth — Album Review
Alternative | Soul | RnB | Rock
As the month of March begins to roll in, I find myself on a bit of a metaphorical “comedown” from the high that was the constant blessing of albums in February. It had felt like quite a while since I last felt the need to visit the expansive pool of new music that is Album of the Year’s new releases page, but I deemed it as a good opportunity to discover something awesome, that may have otherwise slipped under my radar.
And discover something I most certainly did; initially intrigued by the album cover, which suggested this project as something I’d like, Smiling with No Teeth quickly became the next album I had wanted to review.
I am starting to find a weird trend with march, in which the month always seems to present itself as a quality over quantity kind of period, and this brand new album certainly feels like an excellent representative of that theory.
So with my introductory waffle aside, Smiling with No Teeth is the debut album from the musical alias of Canberra-based singer Kofi Owusu-Ansah, known as Genesis Owusu, who oddly enough, is also brother to hip-hop artist Citizen Kay.
This album was obviously my introduction to Genesis Owusu as an artist, and as a result, I wasn’t too sure what I could expect. But even if I put all of my mental energy into trying to theorise what I would end up getting from this album, I would never have been able to expect what we actually ended up getting, with the expectation-shattering versatility of Smiling with No Teeth.
It’s fair to say an album like Smiling with No Teeth shouldn’t normally work as well as it actually does; when you normally have so many different style of track on one album, it would ultimately result in a chaotic and inconsistent piece. But there’s just something about the way that Smiling with No Teeth flows, and the placement of each track that just feels so ingenious. For example, I feel that if a track like “Black Dogs!” was put directly before one like “No Looking Back”, then it would sound more like I have my songs on shuffle, as opposed to listening to a singular album. But all of the tracks in-between those two examples makes the journey from one to the other more comfortable; all while staying unique each step of the way.
Genesis Owusu also executes each style of track so confidently, that it only made it harder for me to pinpoint what kind of artist he really is. Owusu really puts himself forward as a jack-of-all-trades musically, and not the cheap kind either.
Every single track that is found on Smiling with No Teeth has something uniquely different to offer, ranging from a soulful beauty, to meaningful lyrics, to a hard-hitting and dynamic energy, it allows every track on this thing to have their own reason to shine. I’m pretty certain that at this stage, each and every song off of this album has been stuck in my head at one point or another.
With all of this versatility in consideration, it is nearly impossible to compare this album to another artist, but that’s not going to stop me from trying my best; I would say that Smiling with No Teeth combines aesthetics of Yves Tumor, Thundercat, Bloc Party, BROCKHAMPTON, Bakar, Death Grips, Gregory Porter, and many, many more. if that doesn’t spell just how versatile this album truly is, I frankly have no idea what will.
All of this stylistic versatility is brought together by a narrative that highlights racial discrimination in a way that feels artfully subliminal, and ties tracks together in a thematic sense (the primary example of this being the repeated mentions of the “black dogs”). That being said, I feel that Smiling with No Teeth could easily work as both a full start-to-finish experience, or as a single-focused listen.
In conclusion, I feel that Smiling with No Teeth is easily one of the most ambitious debut albums I have heard in a very long time, and there is little to nothing that I really have to fault it on. It is a phenomenal record, and stands as one of my favourites of 2021 so far.
Favourite Tracks: Don’t Need You | Black Dogs! | Whip Cracker | No Looking Back | Bye Bye
Least Favourite Track: n/a
House Anxiety | Ourness
Enjoyment: 10/10 | Memorability: 10/10 | Atmosphere: 9/10
Uniqueness: 10/10 | Satisfaction: 10/10 | Narrative: 9/10