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Divine Symmetry: W3st’s Kunenduge— and if you like this, come back Saturday for an exclusive interview!

A few weeks ago I chose, as “cover of the week,” a great rendition of “Starman” by a British musician who goes by W3st. I liked what he did with the song and I liked his voice, so I asked him for an interview, which he was good enough to grant me and that’s going to run this upcoming Saturday (so come back).

Meanwhile, I started listening to more of his music and somewhat to my surprise his typical genre is pretty different than the style on display in his cover of “Starman”— it’s rap. I have respect for rap but it’s not the typical style of music I gravitate towards, and wouldn’t be surprised if I have the wrong vocabulary to talk about it. To some extent, this song, “Kunenduge,” is, like “Starman,” not necessarily of W3st’s typical output. But like, “Starman,” I like the song!

So why am I highlighting it in the Divine Symmetry series? The series compares songs by artists other than Bowie, with Bowie’s songs. This one is pretty different than any Bowie song I can think of, though there are a couple of incidental similarities.

So first, on those similarities— W3st uses a couple of phrases that Bowie also uses, specifically “hold on” and “doesn’t matter.” Bowie conspicuously uses the first phrase in “Hold On To Yourself,” which came off the same album as “Starman,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie uses “Doesn’t matter” at the close of the lesser known song, “Zeroes.” I think the common usage of these phrases is completely coincidental. I am tempted to go down an esoteric rabbit hole, but I’m going to stick with coincidence.

W3st tells me that “Kunenduge” means “no manners,” which is another phrase that appears in the song. There’s some wordplay going on here as “no manner” is similar to “no matter.” No manners/no matter. That’s the point that’s reiterated throughout the song.

While this does not sound like a Bowie song, I can imagine this song being played at the same club as something Bowie did on The Buddha of Suburbia or Earthling. Similarly, W3st’s “Starman” has a Caribbean feel to it, which makes it distinct from Bowie’s. But it’s not dissimilar to some of the songs on Bowie’s, Tonight, which brings up an interesting point.

Although I like Tonight, it is widely thought of as one of Bowie’s worst albums. Bowie also dipped a toe into rap, which also didn’t necessarily go well. “Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)” from Never Let Me Down includes an almost embarrassing rap segment voiced by actor Mickey Rourke, whereas “Miracle Goodnight” from Black Tie White Noise includes a quasi-rap from Bowie himself. Although I like the latter song very much, many Bowie fans don’t like it at all.

But herein lies a commonality between W3st and Bowie— they were both willing to experiment outside their safe lanes.

More interestingly, the kind of rap that’s more typical for W3st, which sounds more different than anything Bowie did himself, actually has more in common with what Bowie was doing in the early 70s. The music doesn’t sound similar, and the language is different too, but what Bowie was doing then and what W3st is doing now occupy similar space.

Essentially conceding that he had become part of the establishment by the early 90s, Bowie said of rap that that’s where “the new force of music is coming from” and that “there’s a very strong social point to make. There’s a means of discovery and a purpose.” Bowie still had social points to make in the 90s through the end, but what he was getting at is that his perspective had shifted from that of a young man to that of a middle aged guy who had years of success under his belt. I think he could have been talking about W3st’s music today.

This whole blog project has exposed me to music, thoughts and people In wouldn’t otherwise have encountered. I’m glad it took me to W3st. So, enjoy this song and come back Saturday for the interview!

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The Divine Symmetry series compares Bowie songs to other songs with some sort of similarity, intentional or otherwise. The term is borrowed from Bowie’s song, “Quicksand.”

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