Mnek finds the queer heart of R&B on Language | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Mnek finds the queer heart of R&B on Language

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One of an emerging generation of queer R&B artists, Mnek (pronounced em-en-EE-kay) takes an approach to his music that’s closer to mainstream radio pop than that of idiosyncratic performers such as Serpentwithfeet, Le1f, or even Frank Ocean. This has some downsides: on his 2018 album, Language (Virgin EMI), he defaults to pleasant but undistinguished balladry on songs such as "Paradise." At his best, though, Mnek demonstrates that aspects of the queer experience—unspoken love, hidden passion, and ecstatic revelation included—have always been at the center of R&B. "Colour," which features guest vocals from actor Hailee Steinfeld and a pattering, infectiously joyful electro-pop background, functions both as a standard heterosexual ode to new love and as a coming-out anthem, complete with rainbow imagery. The video is all coy winks and painful silences, while the song’s lyrics slide around double entendres about oral sex: "So I'm putting both hands over my mouth / I can only hope nothing's gonna come out / But there it is on the tip of my tongue / (I think I love you)." On "Girlfriend,” he tells his down-low lover, "Someone like her isn't right for you." The great thing about Mnek is that he shows his love affair with R&B is the rightest thing in the world.   v

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