Bien, Grammy Award-winning Kenyan songwriter, musician, and celebrated vocalist, steps into a new realm of musical exploration with his debut solo album, “Alusa Why Are You Topless” ‘The album is a mixture of Afrobeats, R&B and Afropop with some songs featuring country vibes.
Bein has featured amazing talents across Africa including Ms Banks (UK), Ayra Starr (Nigeria), Scar Mkadinali, Tay Iwar (Nigeria) and Dj Edu. He had already released 4 tracks Off the album ‘My Baby’ feat Ayra Starr, ‘Ma Cherrie, ‘True Love’ and ‘Too Easy’ feat Dj Edu.
The title, “Alusa Why Are You Topless,” is not just a catchy phrase but a reflection of a personal moment that inspired the album. The genesis of this intriguing title came from a call from Bien’s mom after the release of Sauti Sol’s music video for “Nishike,” where he appeared shirtless.
“When we did [the song] Nishike, I got a call from my mom and she said Alusa, why are you topless? And I decided to pick that up and make an album. It’s a lot of pop music too” Bein said this at the launch of his Bald Man Better EP back in 2021
The album, as Bien describes, symbolizes audacity, new beginnings, and freedom—a mantra for this new season in his life. It’s a collection that spans a spectrum of pop music while maintaining the essence of his chequered Sauti Sol discography. The journey Bien takes us on is not just a musical exploration but a narrative intertwined with comic relief, expressing the discipline and audacious spirit that underpin this phase of his life.
Who is Bien?
Bien, whose full name is Bien-Aimé Baraza, is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, musician, and celebrated vocalist hailing from Kenya. He has been a pivotal force behind the resounding success of Sauti Sol, a boy band that has dominated charts worldwide for over 15 years. His journey in the music industry has not only earned him respect but has also contributed to the global recognition of African music.
Beyond his role in Sauti Sol, Bien has ventured into a solo career that promises to showcase his individual artistry. His debut album, “Alusa Why Are You Topless,” is a testament to his multifaceted talents. It serves as a seismic earworm, seamlessly blending his unique Kenyan touch with a willingness to embrace global diasporic sounds.
Alusa Why Are You Topless? | Album Review
“Alusa Why Are You Topless” features a captivating blend of Afrobeats, R&B, and Afropop, with some tracks infusing country vibes. Bien collaborates with a stellar lineup of talents from across Africa, including Ms Banks (UK), Ayra Starr (Nigeria), Scar Mkadinali, Tay Iwar (Nigeria), and Dj Edu.
Bien’s debut solo album is more than a mere collection of songs; it is a revelation of his uniqueness and a narrative of his musical journey. The release of this album is a gift to fans and a significant contribution to Kenya’s musical landscape, destined to inspire future generations.
The creative approach in addressing contemporary societal issues is evident, with tracks like “Sex and Marijuana” offering a reflection of the challenges faced by today’s youth. The unexpected collaboration with Scar Mkadinali, known for his lyrical prowess and unique flow, adds an element of surprise and excitement to the album.
1. Legend (Intro)
Bien, sets the stage with the sultry R&B-infused midtempos, expertly weaving a musical tapestry that begins with the enticing track, “Legend.” The album’s introduction serves as a prelude to an immaculate run of sensuality, a promise fulfilled by Bien’s evocative vocals and masterful composition.
The song opens with the provocative question, “Have you made love to a legend?” as Bien croons with a seductive allure that immediately captivates the listener. The harmony throughout the track is not just lit; it’s ridiculously so, creating an atmosphere that feels like eavesdropping on an intimate conversation between Bien and his wife, Chiki. The lyrics, delivered with an iconic mysticism, evoke a sense of passion and romance that sets the tone for what lies ahead in the album.
The song, with its sensuous undertones, showcases Bien’s ability to convey emotion through his singing, creating a captivating experience for the audience. The track is not just an introduction; it’s a declaration of musical prowess, marked by the unique mystique of a bald man who effortlessly intertwines vulnerability and strength in his performance.
The sensual R&B vibes, coupled with Bien’s seductive crooning and the harmonious allure, make this track an enticing curtain-raiser for “Alusa, Why are You Topless.” Bien’s legendary vocals and mesmerizing golden voice lay the foundation for what promises to be a remarkable and emotive musical journey.
2. Lost & Found
The second track on Bien’s album, “Lost & Found” emerges as a dance-forward anthem that seamlessly blends rhythmic beats with the nostalgic touch of strings. This up-tempo track speaks to the universal quest for love and the complexities of holding onto a failing relationship. The production is lively, with a fun and summery vibe that invites the listener to dance through the emotional rollercoaster of love.
From the very first beats, vocals, and lyrics, “Lost & Found” ignites a fiery fusion that fans can’t help but praise. The song’s timeless quality is repeatedly emphasized, with listeners struggling to find words to describe its emotive depth. One fan beautifully captures the essence, noting that the strings transport them to a bygone era when love was pure, everyone was equal, and every individual mattered.
“Lost & Found” takes on a therapeutic role for some fans, being the kind of song needed to get through the day. The sentiment is echoed by others who find the track not just beautiful but a soundtrack that makes life adventurous. The emotional impact of the song is underscored by the acknowledgement that it provides pure dopamine, exemplifying the artistry that Bien injects into his music.
Fans playfully note that when “Homeboy looked in the mirror, he saw his competition” because “Lost & Found” stands as a musical gem that only Bien can compete against. The admiration is sealed with a salute to Bien for his artistry.
The song shows Bien’s ability to create music that transcends time, emotions, and expectations.
3. Sex & Marijuana feat Ms Banks
The album takes a daring leap into the heart of modern society’s challenges, and one standout track, “Sex and Marijuana.” The track features the talented Nigerian-British rapper, singer, and songwriter, Ms Banks. Known by her birth name Thyra Kigho Deshaun Oji, Ms Banks brings her distinctive style and voice to the collaboration, elevating the song’s impact with her dynamic presence.
The song delves into the issues that resonate with today’s youth, offering a candid reflection on the daily struggles and experiences faced by the younger generation. Through creative lyricism and bold musical choices, “Sex and Marijuana” becomes a mirror reflecting the multifaceted challenges, desires, and societal norms that shape contemporary life. Bien’s decision to feature Ms Banks, a versatile artist with a rich background in rap, singing, and songwriting, adds depth and authenticity to the narrative, making the track a standout in the album’s exploration of modern themes.
The production of “Sex and Marijuana” further enhances the song’s impact, with Grammy-nominated British producer Sammy SoSo at the helm. Sammy SoSo’s expertise as a producer, songwriter, engineer, and DJ is evident in the track’s sonic richness and meticulous arrangement. The collaboration between Bien, Ms Banks, and Sammy SoSo creates a synergy that not only highlights the challenges faced by today’s youth but also elevates the album as a whole.
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4. My Baby feat Ayra Starr
The fourth track on Bien’s album, “Alusa Why are You Topless,” emerges as a highlight with the enchanting collaboration, “My Baby,” featuring the immensely talented Ayra Starr. This musical union brings together two of Africa’s brightest stars, blending their unique vocal styles to create a sultry, feel-good love song that radiates with the chemistry of seasoned artists.
Bien and Ayra Starr’s collaboration is a standout moment on the album, and it adds a layer of excitement for fans who have eagerly awaited the fusion of their individual talents.
The infectious charm of “My Baby” sets the tone for an exploration of diverse musical landscapes and the seamless integration of talented voices, making it a must-listen for anyone seeking a melodic journey through contemporary African music.
Bien’s “Chikwere” is a musical time capsule that takes us back to the sweet days of ’90s love. From the first strum of the guitar, you feel the magic, and fans are quick to praise the song for doing justice to this beloved instrument.
The lyrics, vocals, and instrumentals come together in a sensational way, earning “Chikwere” its title as a total package of musical excellence. It’s not just a trip down memory lane; it’s a heartfelt dedication from Bien to his wife, Chiki, adding an extra layer of emotion to the song.
For those who resonate with the single life, “Chikwere” strikes a chord, prompting dreams of future romantic moments. The country vibe in the song adds a unique touch, earning comparisons to Westlife and solidifying its place as a timeless and relatable piece. As the 6th track on Bien’s debut album, “Alusa Why are You Topless,” this song is more than just a musical experience—it’s a connection to the past, a celebration of love, and a promise of future memories.
6. Ma Cherie
The fifth track, “Ma Cherie,” emerges as a delightful and catchy celebration of love and life. This upbeat song showcases Bien’s vocal prowess and harmonizing skills, reaffirming his position as a maestro in the realm of contemporary African music. The lyrics are a sweet and playful expression of affection, setting the stage for a musical journey that exudes positivity and joy.
“Ma Cherie” takes on a pop-rock feel, with a vibrant mix of electric guitars, drums, and keyboards that create a lively and energetic atmosphere. The chorus, with its infectious catchiness, invites listeners to join in and sing along, making it an anthem of love and celebration. The bridge introduces a rap verse, adding a delightful touch of variety and spice to the song’s composition. The result is a fun and enjoyable track that not only makes you smile but also inspires spontaneous dancing.
Bien’s musical inventiveness shines through in “Ma Cherie.” Instead of relying on destiny for direction, he crafts a future all his own, and this confidence resonates throughout the song. The smooth and slick production, coupled with Bien’s expertly delivered vocals, creates a sonic experience that feels like a timely rescue. “Ma Cherie” is not just a mad tune; it’s a testament to Bien’s artistry and his ability to curate a musical journey that uplifts the spirits of those who embark on it.
7. I Want You
“Alusa Why are You Topless,” reaches a crescendo with the seventh track, “I Want You.” As we journey towards the tail end of the album, this song stands out with an unmasked desire that shifts the thematic focus from matters of the heart to those of the head.
Bien’s ability to traverse diverse emotional landscapes becomes evident in “I Want You,” as he delves into a realm that blends passion with introspection.
The combination of lyrics and melody in “I Want You” is nothing short of inspiring, creating a powerful resonance that speaks directly to the soul. The infectious energy of the song, coupled with Bien’s signature emotive vocals, elevates it to a standout moment in the album. The pop-rock infusion adds a dynamic layer, making it a compelling piece that captures both the attention and imagination of the listener.
We are indeed privileged to live in an era where Bien’s musical genius graces our ears.
“I Want You” becomes a crucial chapter in this musical journey, showcasing Bien’s ability to provoke thought and ignite passion through his art. Bravo, Alusa, but the lingering question remains — why are you topless? A question that invites listeners to unravel the layers of meaning behind Bien’s bold and enigmatic artistic choices.
8. True Love
“True Love” stands out as an undeniable gem that will resonate not just now but for the next 20 years and beyond. The track’s ability to seamlessly combine traditional African elements with a modern acoustic allure is a testament to Bien’s musical genius.
The up-tempo nature of “True Love” adds a dynamic energy to the album, offering a refreshing contrast to the more contemplative moments found earlier in the tracklist. It is a fire moto melody that not only showcases Bien’s beautiful vocal control but also serves as a testament to the album’s diverse sonic landscape.
As I immerse myself in the album’s intricate layers, “True Love” emerges as a shining example of Bien’s ability to create music that goes beyond the boundaries of genre and time. In the symphony of “Alusa, Why are You Topless,” “True Love” is a resounding note that echoes the album’s brilliance, leaving an indelible mark on the listener’s musical soul.
Bien delivers a powerful and uplifting message in the inspirational track “Stay.” The song resonates as a beacon of hope, urging listeners not to give up on their dreams as success is on the horizon. The sentiment encapsulated in the lyrics serves as a motivational anthem, encouraging individuals to embrace their unique journeys and avoid the trap of comparing themselves to others. Bien’s ability to infuse positivity into his music is commendable, and “Stay” becomes a rallying cry for resilience and perseverance.
The fan reactions affirm the impact of “Stay,” with one listener noting, “Stay Is an inspirational song urging people not to give up yet, success is coming.” This acknowledgement underscores the song’s universal appeal and its ability to connect with the shared human experience of facing challenges and striving for success.
The emphasis on not comparing oneself to others aligns with the broader theme of the album, promoting individuality and self-discovery. The infusion of rhumba rhythms adds a distinct flavour to the track.
“Stay” offers solace and motivation to those navigating the complexities of life. In the symphony of Bien’s musical journey, this track becomes a harmonious note that encourages us all to persevere, embrace our unique paths, and stay committed to our dreams.
10. A student
The album takes a thought-provoking turn with the track “A Student,” delving into the poignant narrative of a child grappling with belittlement from an adult regarding their ambitions. In this emotionally charged piece, Bien once again proves his mettle not just as a musician but as a storyteller keenly attuned to the societal challenges that resonate with us all.
“A Student” serves as a poignant mirror reflecting the issues we face in modern society, unveiling the harsh reality of dreams being stifled and ambitions overlooked.
The album unveils its sonic masterpiece with the emotionally charged track, “Time,” showcasing Bien’s prowess not only as a singer but as a storyteller. As the ethereal harmonies wash over the listener, the profound lyrics resonate deeply: “But time, good things take time.”
The sheer brilliance of this composition is enough to send chills down one’s spine, a testament to the captivating power of both the words and the harmonies that effortlessly weave through the air. “Time” becomes more than just a song; it’s a soul-stirring experience, reminding us that only time has the ability to heal wounds and make things feel better.
Listening to this piece, it’s hard to believe that “Time” is a creation of our very own. The emotional depth and musical intricacy elevate it to a level that transcends borders and genres. The yearning for an emoji that accurately captures the emotions evoked by this track speaks volumes about the impact it has on the listener.
The resonating theme, “Everything takes time,” becomes a powerful mantra, echoing not only within the song but also as a motivational message for those immersed in the journey of life. “Time” stands as a testament to Bien’s ability to create art that leaves an indelible mark on the soul.
As the track unfolds, the exclamation of “sheeeeeeeesh” reflects the universal sentiment of being caught off guard by the sheer brilliance of the song. The desire for the track to be longer underscores its undeniable allure. The final moments leave us yearning for more, echoing the sentiment of unpreparedness for the track to end so soon.
The choir’s impeccable execution in understanding the assignment becomes a highlight, elevating “Time” to a realm where musical excellence meets emotional resonance, leaving an indelible mark on the listener’s heart.
12. Time Alone feat Tay Iwar
In “Time Alone,” Bien expresses a heartfelt longing to escape the relentless pressures of life, and the lyrics resonate with a universal desire for solitude and introspection.
As the album nears its conclusion, “Time Alone” becomes a poignant reflection on the need for respite and self-discovery, showcasing Bien’s ability to evoke deep emotions through his music.
The collaboration with Tay Iwar adds an extra layer of richness to the track. Tay Iwar, a Nigerian neo-soul pioneer and Alté music genre maestro, brings his distinctive sound and soulful touch to “Time Alone.” His contribution enhances the song’s emotional depth, creating a synergy that encapsulates the essence of the Alté music movement.
Tay Iwar’s recognition and a special mention by The Recording Academy for his contribution to Wizkid’s “Made in Lagos” deluxe studio album further emphasize the calibre of artists involved in “Time Alone.”
This track, with its soul-stirring lyrics and the seamless integration of Tay Iwar’s talents, stands as a testament to the album’s ability to captivate listeners on both a personal and genre-defying level.
13. Lifestyle feat Scar Mkadinali
Bien and Scar Mkadinali’s collaboration in “Lifestyle” is a dynamic showcase of musical synergy, earning praise for its super dope vibe and the seamless fusion of their talents. Fans are quick to applaud Bien’s remarkable versatility, noting how effortlessly he adapts to different musical styles, while “Lifestyle” itself is hailed as a top-notch masterpiece.
The authenticity and ease with which Bien and Scar navigate the beat receive acclaim, with fans emphasizing the duo’s ability to kill the track without breaking a sweat, showcasing genuine passion for their craft.
Beyond individual brilliance, the collaboration is recognized for the collective strength of Scar Mkadinali and his crew, positioning them as A-list artists in the country. Bien’s vocal prowess and melodic mastery stand out, complemented by Scar Mkadinali’s precise and flair-filled verses.
“Lifestyle” emerges not just as a song but as a testament to the undeniable chemistry and talent of these artists, leaving fans eagerly anticipating more from this dynamic musical partnership.
14. Too Easy feat Dj Edu
Bien’s musical journey in “Alusa, Why are You Topless” takes an exuberant turn with the infectious track, “Too Easy,” featuring the skilled collaboration of DJ Edu. From the first note, it’s evident that this song would be a hit, already creating a vibrant and uplifting vibe among listeners. “Too Easy,” is among the 4 songs pre-released of the album earlier in the year.
The song’s popularity is underscored by the sentiment that “you know the song is fire when the singers are BALD,” emphasizing the undeniable allure of the track. DJ Edu’s masterful production on this soulful, upbeat record captures the essence of the theme — the joy of falling in love.
The Afro-soul and RnB-inspired track celebrates the seamless, natural connection between two people destined to be together. The catchy chorus, with Bien singing “You make it too easy,” becomes a resonant anthem, echoing the sentiment of effortless love that permeates the entire song.
Bien unveils another gem with the track “Kwama,” a testament to his ability to infuse diverse influences into his music. The fan reactions reflect the undeniable impact of this song, capturing the essence of love and dedication. “When you fight for something you love, wee kwama nayo,” echoes the sentiment that Bien has masterfully woven into the lyrics.
The passion and emotion behind his delivery resonate, creating an immersive experience for listeners who find themselves entangled in the web of love he skillfully spins.
The fans’ recognition of Bien’s artistic prowess on this album is evident, with one expressing, “Bien went wild on this album walai… Nimekwama nayo since it dropped.” The connection to the song is palpable, emphasizing the staying power of “Kwama” and its ability to captivate the audience from the moment it graced the airwaves.
The comparison to Burna Boy and Asake vibes opens up exciting possibilities, suggesting the potential for a remix featuring these artists—a prospect that could undoubtedly elevate “Kwama” to new heights, transforming it into a musical bomb.
The acknowledgement that the song features Afrobeat beats underlines Bien’s exploration of diverse musical genres within the album. “Kwama” becomes a celebration of love, urging listeners to honour and appreciate the profound impact of genuine affection.
In a world that often seeks to encapsulate the complexities of love, Bien crafts a musical narrative that invites us to hold on tight to something we cherish. “Alusa Why are You Topless” continues to unfold as a rich tapestry of emotions, with “Kwama” standing as a testament to Bien’s ability to craft music that not only entertains but also resonates deeply with the human experience.
16. Anointed (Outro) Sarah Ikumu.
The final curtain falls on Bien’s captivating musical odyssey, “Alusa Why are You Topless,” with the soul-stirring track, “Anointed.”
What a way to end an album! This poignant outro not only encapsulates the essence of the entire musical journey but also serves as a testament to Bien’s ability to curate an album that takes listeners on a profound and diverse emotional ride. As the last note fades away, “Anointed” leaves an indelible mark, solidifying the album’s status as a masterpiece.
The inclusion of the talented singer Sarah Ikumu in “Anointed” adds an extra layer of brilliance to the album’s conclusion. Sarah, recognized for her powerful voice that earned her the Golden Buzzer on Britain’s Got Talent, brings a unique and awe-inspiring element to the track. Her vocal prowess creates a mesmerizing synergy. The purity in this outro is truly sheesh-worthy, and the listener is left in awe of the excellence that permeates every note and lyric.
As the song concludes, there’s a delightful surprise—an appearance, perhaps, by Bein’s Mom at the end. This touch adds a personal and heartwarming element to the track, leaving a lasting impression of familial love and support.
“Anointed” is not just an ending; it’s a celebration of talent, evolution, and excellence. Having followed Bien’s journey since Mwanzo, the evolution of everyone involved in this musical endeavour is nothing short of surreal. “Alusa Why are You Topless” doesn’t just showcase the best in class; it invites us to witness the collective growth and brilliance of artists. Brava, indeed!
“Alusa Why are You Topless” is a multifaceted journey that delves into the heart of Bien’s artistic prowess, exploring an array of emotions and experiences. The inclusion of standout tracks like “Lifestyle,” “Ma Cherie,” “Kwama,” “Chikwere,” “My Baby,” “Anointed,” and “Legend” elevates the album to a comprehensive exploration of musical artistry.
Each song, with its distinctive flavour, contributes to the album’s rich tapestry, showcasing Bien’s versatility as an artist who effortlessly navigates through diverse genres and themes.
I will give this album a rating of 8.2 a reflection of its excellence across various musical dimensions. The score acknowledges the exceptional musical artistry displayed by Bien, evident in the intricate arrangements, evocative melodies, and skilful vocal delivery.
Originality shines through as Bien ventures into new avenues of expression, demonstrating a commitment to pushing artistic boundaries. Relevancy is upheld as the album addresses universal themes and resonates with the contemporary music landscape. The strong songwriting, coupled with Bien’s emotive delivery, creates a compelling narrative that engages listeners on a profound level.
Additionally, the collaborative input from featured artists adds depth and diversity to the album, enhancing the overall listening experience. The rating encapsulates the album’s prowess in musical artistry, originality, relevancy, songwriting, delivery, and collaborative input, capturing the essence of “Alusa Why Are You Topless” as a standout piece of musical brilliance.