Written By: Fletcher Bonin
A growing trend in the R&B genre, and music in general for that matter, is to pair incredible vocals with electronic instrumental accompaniments, just look at John Legend’s latest release ‘Darkness and Light’. But in truth, I am not trying to invite comparison. Despite whatever trend is taking place, Richard Kennedy’s 2016 release Open Wound in a Pool Full of Sharks is anything but mainstream. While the likes of John Legend may have paved the way for this amalgam of electronic music and R&B, I maintain that Richard Kennedy has taken the trend one post-modern step forward on this album. It would be wrong to categorize him, so incredibly individual and original is his musical style. Imagine if Frank Ocean and The xx collaborated for one amazing album. Even this example barely scratches the surface of Richard Kennedy’s talent. Kennedy manages to convert his voice and range into an instrument itself; working in perfect harmony with the ethereal electronic beats supporting and supplementing his performance. Though only six tracks in total, Open Wound in a Pool Full of Sharks communicates a range of stories, emotions and experiences via sonic backbeats and moving lyrics.
Two tracks off the album reached the elusive top charts status, ‘Temple’ and ‘Mercy’, however my favorite track was ‘Heartbeats’. The song begins with shimmering synth instrumentals and Kennedy’s melodic panting and breathing. From here he launches into the song, singing “I can see that you’re thinking, do you wanna cross the line, can you feel my heart beating, is it worth the time?” This segment of the song is slow and rich with Kennedy’s intonations. But then just as you are getting comfortable listening to him begin to depict this romantic situation, the beat changes. It speeds up, intensifying and so too does Richard Kennedy, now rapping and singing seemingly simultaneously. He sing/raps “I don’t give a fuck what you say, it doesn’t matter any way.” It is in this way that Kennedy captures so much in one song. He performs a myriad of styles and a range of musical skill over the course of one four-minute track.
For this reason, I maintain that Kennedy is more artist than singer, the chameleon of the musical world, blending perfectly to any beat or sentiment that presents itself. Anyone that enjoys music will enjoy Richard Kennedy, as he is an amalgam of many music styles, any one of which will appeal to the listener.
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