Across 15 tracks, the album is bountiful and boisterous.
Genesis Owusu proves his versatility of voice and style on Smiling with No Teeth. The refined sound maintained across fifteen tracks is made more impressive given it is his debut album – one that pays its respects to ‘60s soul and funk, punk and dips into ‘80s pop rock, while retaining Owusu’s unique sound.
Title track, ‘Smiling with No Teeth’, hits you with Owusu’s haunting chorus: “Everybody wants the summer without holding the rain/Everybody wants the feeling without touching the pain.” This chorus transitions the artist’s deep spoken word verses, laid over a bass-driven instrumental. The lyrical tune about perseverance reaches its conclusion with the brooding repetition of “smiling with no teeth“.
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Track six, ‘Drown’, is a deviation to ‘80s pop rock, which gives you a moment to realise you haven’t accidentally changed albums. A collaboration with Kirin J Callinan, the song continues hip hop’s long history with reappropriating genre to create something new.
Owusu flexes his sensual tone with ‘Waitin’ on Ya’. “I’ve been laying on ya/And waiting on my phone for you, on my phone for you, uh uh,” the involved soul instrumental driving the chorus’ groove between unbound licks in the verses and intro.
The synergy between the vocals and beat in ‘Don’t Need You’ is arresting and infectious, leaving an earworm you’ll never escape. ‘A Song About Fishing’ is an excellent ode to the storytelling of folk rock and early soul. And to conclude the album, Owusu reminds us of his origins in rap with ‘Bye Bye’. His talent is sealed in strong delivery and poetry: “How do I glide with angel wings that’s burning all up in the flames/How do I never take a loss if all I’m playing is a game.”
Smiling with No Teeth offers musicality and lyricism that touch on identity, prejudice and perseverance. It’s a full picture in what proves to be the large scrapbook of Genesis Owusu’s immense talent.
Smiling with No Teeth is out now via Ourness/House Anxiety. For more on Genesis Owusu, head to his Instagram page.