Album Review: Aluna – Renaissance (2020)

You may know the name Aluna Francis as being part of the multi-platinum selling electronic duo AlunaGeorge – as the voice of the collaboration. ‘Renaissance is her first solo project – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

In a year marked by a clear uprising against racism in society as a whole, but in particular law enforcement, Aluna has sought to give black people a voice – through music. In an interview with Variety, she talks about wanting to reclaim dance by incorporating genres such as afrobeat and dancehall into her new project – all black-created genres, but overlooked by an overwhelmingly white market. I also saw a BBC Sounds interview where she talks about people assuming that she makes R&B based on her skin colour – I feel this album is another way of her making it very clear that she is consistently challenging other people’s expectations of her.

Indeed, the lead single, ‘Body Pump’, has an outro where Aluna sings: “I’m trying to be different, don’t make me feel ashamed”. Very blunt statement there – and no one certainly should make her feel ashamed, because it sounds brilliant. Rather like 2016’s ‘I Remember’, there isn’t a single bad track on this album. My favourite of the three collaborations on the album is ‘Warrior’, with SG Lewis: I still prefer their first song together, ‘Hurting’, but both are solid 10/10. It is another chilled out, spacey track which makes heavy use of synths and sound effects. I was very excited also when I saw KAYTRANADA on the tracklist – ‘The Recipe’ doesn’t disappoint, which it’s catchy chorus and Nigerian singer Rema’s infectious vocals merging beautifully with Aluna’s own voice.

My favourite song on the album after a couple of listens is ‘Ain’t My Business’ – a track which makes use of muted breakbeats, a piano, deep synths and strings in it’s build up, before a catchy chorus which seems to be about a relationship where the two together aren’t listening to each other and the other person is displaying toxic behaviours. Following that there’s a drop with an infectious beat towhich it is impossible not to dance. The album then goes into a small lull (in my opinion), before the penultimate track Surrender, which opens with a dramatic piano, backed with an organ sound. It then settles into a chilled, reggae-infused beat.

‘Renaissance’ is definitely one of my favourite releases this year – it’s a little different to the charts, but Aluna’s message is clear and it’s successful. It manages to be chilled and relaxed without becoming boring, and although it’s not a dramatic change from Aluna’s previous style with George, it’s a very good debut solo album. She really deserves more recognition than she gets.

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