Today’s Song of the Day is Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanuka.
I discovered this song while watching season 1, episode 5 of Netflix’s Dear White People and season 5, episode 22 of Elementary. Immediately, I assumed it was by an artist much older as the raw pain and sorrow in the lyrics of the song were so prevalent. There is quite a bit to love not only about this song but about the artist himself, Michael Kiwanuka.
“Love & Hate” could have easily been a soul song released in the early 1970s and certainly would have held its own amongst the likes of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and Bill Withers. Somehow, Kiwanuka, a 30 year old native of London, England born to Ugandan parents, possesses both the voice and musical prowess of someone much older. With a run time of just over 7 minutes, “Love & Hate” is what I like to call a “full song”, meaning that there are no empty spaces and that the instruments and vocals are used to create an all-encompassing listening experience.
The song, named after the album of the same name on which it is featured, moves in stages, allowing the listener to travel through all the emotions Kiwanuka himself feels within it. Some of the most prominent features of the song are an absolutely stunning string section, piano, snare drum, and electric guitar. The backing vocals add depth to Kiwanuka’s lyrics, serving as a background mantra at times. Some of the most striking lyrics are the following:
Calling for my demons now to let me go
I need something, give me something wonderful
She won’t take me somewhere I’m not supposed to be
You can’t steal the things that god has given me
No more pain and no more shame and misery
You can’t take me down
Though “Love & Hate” certainly has a lot of different meanings, I took this song to be about overcoming depression and maintaining faith in yourself and the best parts of you. Other songs on the album Love & Hate, produced by Paul Butler, Danger Mouse, and Inflo, showcase the deep vocal talents of Michael Kiwanuka as well as a full range of various instruments: “Cold Little Heart”, “Black Man in a White World”, and “I’ll Never Love”.
If you were looking for a song to listen to on repeat for hours on end and add to your favorite playlist, “Love & Hate” is certainly the song for you. Michael Kiwanuka is definitely an artist you want to keep on your radar and we at Geeks of Color are excited about where is amazing talent will take him.