MNEK’s reputation precedes him: at only 23 he has already written and produced for some of the biggest names in pop, and his debut album Language allows him a chance to “step up to the front now / so you can hear me out” as he puts it on opening track Background.
Hints of previous creations crop up now and again: Colour with Hailee Steinfeld brings back memories of the stellar Little Mix hit Touch, which he produced, and the explosive middle section of Body is reminiscent of Zara Larsson’s Ain’t My Fault, but his style has many layers and the album never feels like a retread. The songs here are catchy, unique, intricate and soulful in equal measure, with staggering variety across the album.
Girlfriend is a great example of MNEK’s skills, featuring production that weaves together trap with the hyper-kinetic beats of PC Music via Craig David, lyrics that tell the tale of a secret relationship (“if your girlfriend knew ‘bout me and you / ‘bout what we do, tell me, what would she do?”) and vocal riffs most R&B singers would kill for. So is main single Tongue, which takes the very trendy minimal pop-drop structure and flips it into a building wall of romantic tension.
The album doesn’t follow any exact narrative, but its songs are perfectly sequenced to allow themes to build and skits bridge the gap between these themes very well. Some of the most interesting productions come in Language’s final section, the complex rhythms of Crazy World and Free twisting around lyrics about self-discovery and oppression.
By the end of the heartfelt Touched By You MNEK has truly made his mark with this ambitious masterwork of an album. After years in the background, he’s proved that he’s the full package.