Stirring tenor sounds from another world, questioning the one we live in
May 12, 2017 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I was introduced to Clementine’s music through a friend who insisted I check him out. I was floored, and immediately asked him to perform at a music festival that I curated in London last year. He took the stage in a long coat, no shirt or shoes on, and played the piano perched on a high stool, almost standing. ... a far cry from rush hour in a station of the Métro. And yet, he told me there is something almost harder about formal concerts.
~ David Byrne, Unlocking the Mystery of Benjamin Clementine (March 2, 2016; New York Times Style Magazine)

Benjamin Clementine has had an interesting rise to fame. Born and raised in London, the young musician and poet moved to Paris to strike out with his voice and guitar, busking on the Paris Metro among other locations. He was signed and released his first EP in 2013, and performed the title track, Cornerstone, on Later With Jools Holland that same year. Two years later, his debut album, At Least for Now (YouTube playlist) was released, earning him the Mercury Prize, where he shared a bit of his history and dedicating his win to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks.
It was impressive enough that Benjamin Clementine won 2015’s Mercury Prize, the $30,000 award for the best recording by a British or Irish act, with his debut full-length album. It’s even more impressive that “At Least for Now” is unlike anything else in pop music at the moment. The best shorthand description is perhaps “Nina Simone singing the Leonard Cohen songbook,” for Clementine’s unapologetically literary lyrics are delivered in a strong but idiosyncratic tenor.
His most recent appearance of note came earlier this year, on the first single from the Gorillaz new album, a political track titled "Hallelujah Money."

More music from Benjamin: One final link: if you wish to delve into the poetry and meaning of his lyrics, here's Benjamin Clementine's page on
posted by filthy light thief (4 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
The post title is a compressed version of the subtitle to David Byrne's article, which reads: His stirring, impassioned tenor sounds like it’s from another world, but it’s the singer’s questioning of the one we live in that sets his music apart.

Alternate title, quoting from Clementine: "Where you’re from shapes you, but you can actually do whatever you want."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2017

His debut album, At Least For Now, is on Apple Music and I'm 3 minutes into the first track (Winston Churchill's Boy) and I'm hooked. He is incredible.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:11 PM on May 12, 2017

He sounds like John Cale. "literary lyrics are delivered in a strong but idiosyncratic tenor" -- Yes, John Cale.
posted by CCBC at 3:56 PM on May 12, 2017

Absolutely kills me that Time is not available in a studio recording yet. One of the best songs I've heard in years.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:24 PM on May 13, 2017

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