Kenna

Picture of Kenna

New Sacred Cow

Kenna - New Sacred Cow © 2003 Columbia
1. Within Earshot
2. Freetime
3. Man Fading
4. Sunday After You
5. Vexed and Glorious/A Better Control
6. Red Man
7. Hell Bent
8. Yeneh Ababa (Rose)
9. War in Me
10. New Sacred Cow
11. I'm Gone
12. Siren
13. Love/Hate Sensation

The record industry has not been particularly kind to Ethiopian-born/American-raised Kenna Zemudkun. His quirky mixture of R&B and new wave has led to record label troubles and numerous delays for both of his albums for fear of not knowing how to market his music. A shame, as this is some insidiously catchy pop music with a surprising amount of emotional depth and dynamic songwriting.

As the story goes, Kenna's love for Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder as well as the Cure and Depeche Mode led him to teaming up with Chad Hugo (a high school friend and one half of famed producing team The Neptunes) and collaborating on New Sacred Cow, which then sat in record label limbo for a lengthy amount of time before eventually getting unleashed upon the world in 2003. While the material is undoubtedly commercial in nature and rife with electro-pop hooks, the added influence of Duran Duran and the aforementioned Cure and Depeche Mode make it quite hard to pigeonhole. Kenna's singing often makes him sound like a dead ringer for Simon LeBon, but manages to maintain enough of its own identity without sounding derivative, and is excellent throughout. He delivers his personal lyrics with an unaffected and emotional resonance that is seldom found in music of this nature. The samples, drum beats, and keyboards courtesy of Chad Hugo and Kenna, thankfully, fall short of reminding one of clubbin' and bitches and hos, but rather move the songs into a more somber and occasionally playful vein. The mostly piano-based "Yeneh Ababa (Rose)" and the slow, subtle build of "War in Me" are particularly good in this regard as they clash with the more hook-based "Freetime" and "I'm Gone".

New Sacred Cow was quite the pleasant surprise when it first came out, and comes highly recommended for anyone looking for something a little different in the cluttered field of commercial rock and pop.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 04/2009

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