“This is my first album,” MNEK tells Apple Music, “and in the same way that you learn a language, it takes time to figure out how to go about it. It’s something to absorb — literally the first step amongst many.”
Already an accomplished songwriting hired gun, with credits on Beyoncé’s “Hold Up,” Madonna’s “Hold Tight,” and Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF,” Uzoechi Emenike uses his own terrain to play with pop templates. From the intimate embrace on the cover to his lyrics’ openhearted honesty, he makes good on his desire to, as he says, “help the fight in normalizing black homosexuality in pop music.” Punchy anthem “Girlfriend” is a classic tale of falling for a taken man, with a crucial twist. “If you sing it as a girl, it’s not a big deal,” he explains. “But when I sing it as a boy?” He takes a dramatic gasp and laughs.
But it’s the five-and-a-half-minute centerpiece, “Honeymoon Phaze,” that might be MNEK’s proudest moment. “It’s a song that I really had to fight to be on the album,” he says. “Everyone’s view was that it was indulgent and long and not poppy, but I liked that it wasn’t that. It’s the one song where I’m singing and just going off.”