Though he may not be the most popular musician on the billboards, Michael Franti certainly knows how to make a good groove and catch your ear with his witty yet moving lyrics. Franti and his band, Spearhead, create a combination of a rock and hip-hop that is far from a cliche.
They started producing albums and popular singles in 1994, and since then have gained worldwide fame. Just recently they were nominated for the NAACP Image Award for the Best World Music Album. Their newest release, “The Sound of Sunshine,” really hit the spot for me, and I must not be the only one because the album was listed on the Top 200 Billboard Chart since its debut.
Michael Franti started recording the album in Jamaica, then continued to mix tracks and record in Bali before choosing to bring a portable studio on the road. While traveling, he tested his ideas and new collaborations in front of audiences, changing songs if necessary.
That process is probably one of the main reasons the album is so popular; it’s what fans wanted to hear.
In Michael Franti & Spearhead’s past albums, many songs were political, speaking of war and peace and how the world needs a positive change. This album has some of that, but there are more lyrics about love, passion, and good times, and not as much anger and frustration. That change makes the music more enjoyable for me, because I can sing along and relate to the lyrics.
One of my favorite tracks is “Headphones,” where Franti asks the one he loves to metaphorically plug her headphones into his heart so she can know exactly how he feels about her. I found the lyrics charming, clever, and original. The song consists of acoustic guitar with a simple back beat, which eventually crescendos into a rock ballad feel.
“Hey Hey Hey” is one song in which Franti expresses more of a political vibe but lets his listeners know that everything will be okay. In the verses he ponders how the world came to be the way it is and how he finds hope (“From the Wall Street banks to the empty homes, between the lines of the people standing all in a row, there’s a crack in the gutter where a flower grows, reminding me that everything is possible.”) This song sends a hopeful message that no matter how bad times are, everything will work out and someone will always be there for you.
I got hooked on Michael Franti & Spearhead’s music a few years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. Most of their songs are family-friendly, which is hard to find these days, especially in a hip-hop mixed genre. I have never gotten a repetitive feel from any of the albums; the beats are funky, the lyrics are original, and Franti’s soulful voice fills all the empty space in the speakers.
If you haven’t heard of Michael Franti & Spearhead, look them up. You will not be let down.
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