Brit Award winning singer and songwriter Neneh Cherry returns with her new single “Kong”
by Christopher Smith
In 1982, at the onset of Neneh Cherry’s solo career, she appeared on a cover version of Edwin Starr’s “Stop the War”, released in protest of the then-ongoing Falklands War. Spurred on entirely by her dynamic vocals, the dance track was a thrilling debut for Cherry’s funky, cool-girl persona, as well as a first fusion of her music and political beliefs. It would also lead her to a series of richly diverse artistic lives which now cut a path to “Kong” Cherry’s latest single and first solo release since 2014’s “Blank Project”. Here she returns to the protest song format, this time homing in on the far-reaching consequences of colonialism and Europe’s refugee crisis over a gently disorienting, dubby backdrop.
Co-produced by Four Tet and Massive Attack’s 3D, “Kong” is anchored by low-gravity dub bass and a tinkling hi-hat; the effect is like a trip-hop song with the floor sucked out from under it. Cherry takes command through measured, rich vocals and empathic lyrics, a far cry from the boisterous, wisecracking 18-year-old on “Stop the War”. “Every nation seeks its friends in France and Italy/And all across the seven seas,” she sings in an ethereal upper register as an airy keyboard line fills in behind her, “And goddamn guns and guts and bitter love/Still put a hole in me”. The song’s pointed and atmospheric negative space forces listeners to lean in close, with sound dropping in and out from beneath Cherry’s voice in a way that proves both soothing and stirring. Few artists can craft such a minimalist, forward-thinking protest song some three decades into their career with this much poise, but Cherry makes the task look easy, offering up a generous source of strength for a fraught era.
It would be in 1988 that Neneh came to the world’s attention with her single “Buffalo Stance” which reached No.3 in the UK, No.3 in the US and made the top ten in a further eleven countries worldwide.
She followed this with “Manchild” in the Spring of 1989 which made No.5 in the UK as well as making the top ten across Europe and Australasia. Both singles were taken from her debut album “Raw Like Sushi” which has sold over two million copies. Neneh won Best International Solo Artist and Best International Breakthrough artist at the 1990 Brit Awards.
Further success continued with “Kisses On The Wind” (1989 US No.8 UK No.20), “Money Love” (1992) and “Woman” (1996 UK No.9). In 1994 she scored a huge global smash hit with Senegalese artist Youssou N’Dour with the the song “Seven Seconds Away” which took ELEVEN weeks of climbing to peak at No.3 in the UK and spent a total of 17 weeks in the top 40! It also replicated this chart position Stateside.
Neneh, together with The Pretender’s Chrissie Hynde and Cher, topped the UK singles chart the following year with the Comic Relief charity record “Love Can Build A Bridge”.
Since then she has worked with such diverse artists as Gorillaz (“Demon Days”), Groove Armada (“The Groove Is On”) and with Peter Gabriel on his 2000 album “OVO”. In 2007 Neneh Cherry reunited with Youssou N’Dour on the track “Wake Up Africa” from his album “Rokku Mi Rokka”. Her most recent long player “Blank Project” was released in 2014 after a gap of eighteen years.
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