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Smells like Teen Spirit

Teenage prodigy Abdullah Siddiqui addresses the pangs of adolescence, social anxiety and creates an album – Metannoya that has universal charm and should appeal to the millennial generation and well,

Smells like Teen Spirit
Abdullah Siddiqui’s collaborative track with Faris Shafi, ‘Prosaic’ is both fierce and restrained, particularly for the rapper.

ALBUM PROFILE

Teenage prodigy Abdullah Siddiqui addresses the pangs of adolescence, social anxiety and creates an album – Metannoya that has universal charm and should appeal to the millennial generation and well, anyone with good taste in music.

Artist: Abdullah Siddiqui Album: Metannoya*****

In the last few weeks, as teenage prodigy Abdullah Siddiqui planned to unveil his 9-track album Metannoya – a merger of the words ‘metanoia’ and ‘annoy’ – he released three singles including one featuring Faris Shafi called ‘Prosaic’.

Neither did he bank on past hits like ‘Fiction’, ‘Telescope Heart’ and ‘Resistance’ – not featured on the album – nor is he still marveling about his collaboration with Fawad Khan on the song ‘Uth Jaag’ that released earlier this year as part of Pepsi Battle of the Bands season four finale episode. It says a lot about the 18-year-old, who continued to work quietly and dropped Metannoya earlier this September.

Though grateful for the opportunity to work with Fawad (and Xulfi), Abdullah Siddiqui has released a new album with songs that are deeply personal, emotional and honest, merged with innovative contemporary pop, electronic and ambient devices and suitable beats – when needed – to create a wholesome experience.

The 9-track full-length album, minus the older tracks, does have a narrative. It addresses several internal and external issues, showcasing a side of Abdullah we haven’t heard before.

In candid fashion and without complicating matters musically, Metannoya is a precious mix of contemporary pop music with an atmospheric compass and the gospel of Abdullah Siddiqui.

On ‘Terrified’, Abdullah speaks of the very real issue of social anxiety that so many of us suffer from but hide it. In an earlier interview with Instep, he said about ‘Terrified’: “It’s a song about wallowing in the fear of inadequacy to the point of total paralysis. So many of us just don’t want to interact with people because we fear we’re a nuisance to them, and that we don’t have the social skills or social currency to deserve good friends.”

On the song, Abdullah addresses his insecurities, for instance, suffering from social anxiety and lets them rise to the surface. Because Abdullah is both a singer and a songwriter, the emotional connection between the lyrics and music, feels like a modern-day gospel. A similar theme is present on ‘Party Trick’ – according to Abdullah – but don’t mistake this song for ‘Terrified’ beyond the theme.

Even as ‘Party Trick’ is about social anxiety, as the song opens, Abdullah channels the singer-songwriter genre and sings intimately almost as a whisper, “Conversations have not ever been a mere equation,“ and later adds, “So, I’ll just turn off my phone/we’ll say it’s for my sake/fabrication/I’m a party trick”.

Album image photographed by Abdullah Imran Qureshi, edited  by Abdullah Siddiqui.

Album image photographed by Abdullah Imran Qureshi, edited by Abdullah Siddiqui.

A deep vulnerability holds the song together in most places, as Abdullah later sings, “How alone do I have to be for you to not forget me…” and it is one of the most haunted moments on the record. But, as with unpredictability that covers the album, somewhere after 2 minutes, the sound elevates before dropping down again. It’s a gorgeous number. In between the song, there are samples of sirens (police/ambulance-esque) that remind you of your daily reality.

On the collaborative ‘Prosaic ft. Faris Shafi’, a song Abdullah presumed would do well due to Shafi’s presence on it as well as his enormous talent and following – it was a guess right on the money. But in this non-utopic musical universe that aches for ‘a heroic escape’, the two have created something very special and it belongs to both. As Faris Shafi arrives on the vocals as a rapper, the fun-games have been left behind.

This is a giant effort; there are questions of narcissism, privilege where these questions leave you yearning for more. Electric and yet so quiet, even for Faris Shafi, who showcases a somewhat mellow side and does a great job.

With a touch of EDM – a sub-genre of electronic music – on ‘Diamond & Dynamite’, Abdullah revealing his own internal confusion sings, “My own/Fears and doubts, painful sounds/Running in my head, keep me locked out” but remains more optimistic within the song and his own capabilities as he sings further, “I just need time and I’ll be alright/I’m made of diamond and dynamite/Give me a second and I’ll be fine/Can’t touch my diamond and dynamite.”

The sound is perfect and Abdullah keeps the production restrained, having mixed, mastered, produced, written and performed the song.

On ‘Interlude: Future Age’, a 30-second futuristic, Siri-like sample that reminds you that we live in the age of artificial intelligence and the militarisation of space, not just the Internet and this 30-second piece takes us to that reality while the sound really is the key here. From sounds of nature to how the world is evolved into a digital reality, it says something like, “I have made myself the most complicated, hopeless trap ever” and suddenly Stephen Hawkins comes to mind. It also brings Albert Camus to mind, depending on how you interpret it on any given moment.

Verdict

In the end, the teenage prodigy may have made an album that should appeal to the millennial generation but given its maturity, honesty and solid music, it is a record that anyone with an ear for good music can fall in love with. And for that reason alone, music listeners should give it a chance before writing it off for being an English album. Not since Poor Rich Boy has an artist emerged who can write songs in English without butchering it. Taking claim as a pop musician is also deliberate for Abdullah Siddiqui yet proves that there is nothing wrong with good pop music. The songs and the album are blowing up on Patari – the formerly trusted streaming service from Pakistan – as well as other mediums. Start streaming now.

Maheen Sabeeh

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