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Michael Kiwanuka, 'Beautiful Life'

After more than a year and a half of loss, uncertainty and change, Michael Kiwanuka's "Beautiful Life" strikes like an arrow. The Mercury Prize winner says his new song reflects the idea that there's strength in humankind's ability to find grace in difficult situations.

Musically, the London singer-songwriter mixes hopeful words with a moody and discordant arrangement that builds tension slowly until it bursts forth like a Bond theme — epic even by Kiwanuka's standards. On first listen, it immediately conjures images of a cinematic lead character slowly and defiantly walking away from a scene of destruction. (See the TV Trope known as the Unflinching Walk.) But in a sense, that's what we've all been doing: navigating our current mess to find hope on the other side. Taken from a new Netflix documentary called Convergence: Courage in a Crisis, this is Kiwanuka's first new music since 2019, as well as a harbinger of what 2022 will bring.

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Eric Teel
After a failed attempt at structured music instruction at Washington State University, Eric earned a broadcast journalism degree from WSU's renowned Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.