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The post CoSign: Genesis Owusu Is Dancing Through the Dread appeared first on Consequence.
CoSign is an accolade we use to put our stamp of approval on an up-and-coming artist or group who is poised for the big time. For August 2023, we’re highlighting Ghanaian-Australian artist Genesis Owusu and his sophomore effort, STRUGGLER.
Just a few years ago, Genesis Owusu had a serious sit-down with his manager. His debut album, 2021’s Smiling with No Teeth, garnered rave reviews and even cracked the top 30 on the Australian charts. But as a working musician, he and his manager both knew it was time to start considering steps towards the next level of success, especially in the United States. In frank terms, the artist born Kofi Owusu-Ansah had to consider amending his sound for a more commercially accessible follow-up project. So, obviously, Genesis Owusu wrote STRUGGLER – a genre-bending, philosophically-inclined concept album about a bug’s attempt to evade the boot of God.
“I literally went into the album like, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re gonna make some hits,’” the artist explains on a call from his Canberra home. “And then I ended up making an album about a fucking roach trying to run away from God.”
Written across multiple continents, STRUGGLER takes the creative idiosyncrasies Owusu displayed on Smiling with No Teeth and expands upon them in just about every possible way. From the album-long narrative arc to its boundless stylistic exploration, STRUGGLER is Owusu distilled into 11 tracks.
“I realized that I just want to be a storyteller,” Owusu tells Consequence. “When I was a kid, I used to write short stories, and then I transitioned to poetry, and then I transitioned to music and making albums and projects. And I realized that I’ve just been a storyteller the whole time, the medium has just changed.”
And yet, ironically, Owusu came to such a realization by looking outwards. An ambitious, conceptual odyssey in its own right, Smiling with No Teeth dealt with Owusu’s tangible experiences. Taking on topics of racism, mental health, and life’s day-to-day struggles, the record was a clear expression of everything that had been plaguing Owusu’s mind up to that point. STRUGGLER, on the other hand, attempts to oust Owusu from the equation, and in turn, perhaps achieves an even truer portrayal of the artist.
Instead of mining past personal experiences for inspiration, Owusu hit the books. Diving into the absurdism of Albert Camus, the anxious writings of Franz Kafka, and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the artist left this earthly plane to tackle questions on an existential scale, penning a fable that falls somewhere in between The Myth of Sisyphus and The Metamorphosis.
“I think I’d said a lot of the things that I’d really wanted to say,” Owusu says. “So the way to counteract that while staying true and genuine to something that I would actually want to say is to go to the bigger picture and create a story that I felt was more akin to a universal struggle rather than just simply a personal one.
“It was a real, like, quarter-life crisis. What does it mean? The search for an answer to my problems almost became the point of the album in itself in a way,” he continues. “The album goes through the struggle of figuring out life. Like, how am I meant to do this in such a chaotic and absurd world? What is the point of me doing it? Is there a point of me doing it? Maybe I can create my own point. Maybe the chaos and absurdity of life is the gift itself.”
With grand questions and a cockroach-based tale in hand, Owusu set out to determine the sound of his myth, which, it turns out, is surprisingly danceable. With the help of some shockingly notable and (to his manager’s delight) pop-centric collaborators like Jason Evigan (Maroon 5, Avicci, Brittany Spears) and Mikey Freedom Hart (Taylor Swift, Bleachers), the final product is sure to inspire just as much grooving as it will existential crises.
Opener “Leaving the Light,” with its upbeat, synth arpeggios and chanted vocals, introduces the album with a jolt of energy. Hey, Camus never said existentialism had to be a drag, right? Following tracks like post-punk influenced “Stay Blessed” or the deliciously funky “That’s Life (A Swamp)” only serve to reinforce the fun Owusu found in the big questions. Hell, he even manages to turn a song about going to hell into one of this year’s most sensual jams on “See Ya There.”
The end result is a project that’s at once ready to liven up the function and worthy of enough deep analysis to fill a dissertation – and what could be more quintessentially Genesis Owusu than that? STRUGGLER doesn’t ask you to dance the pain away or embrace distraction until it’s all over, but rather invites you to examine the very sourceof your anxieties and to try to have fun while doing so. The album might literally be the soundtrack to a bug’s journey to self-actualization, but for contemporary music fans dealing with everything the past few years have thrown at them, it’s also a metaphorical guide to keep pushing onward.
“The absurdity of the world that we’ve been living in for the past few years, like pandemics and, here in Australia, bushfires and crazy hail; economic downfall and war that we’re able to see on our phones every morning. And we’re just like, ‘Yep. Put on the suit and tie, keep working,’” he says. “It’s so almost hilariously absurd – but also strangely inspiring. The stubbornness of the human will to survive and persevere, to keep moving onto a new day.”
Listen to our full conversation with Genesis Owusu on the latest episode of Consequence Uncut, found above. After winning over crowds opening for Paramore at Madison Square Garden earlier this year, Genesis Owusu is also set for a headlining North American tour later this year. Grab tickets to his upcoming run here, and check out his latest single, “Stay Blessed,” below.