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Sunny Hip-Hop Goes All the Way to Pop

Detail from the cover of I Love You,  Benny Sings' sweetly uplifting live album.
Detail from the cover of I Love You, Benny Sings' sweetly uplifting live album.

If the 5th Dimension reunited, kept its sunny melodicism intact, and sprinkled its music with subtle hip-hop beats, an intoxicating song like Benny Sings' "Make a Rainbow" would be born. Just as the 5th Dimension expanded the boundaries of R&B subject matter in its late-'60s to mid-'70s heyday, the Dutch singer today defies the traditional boundaries of hip-hop, both musically and thematically.

Hip-hop remains in Sings' soul, but he's not afraid to allow pop -- the gooey, almost sickly sweet kind -- to shine through. His two albums, Champagne People and I Love You, showcase his love of the Carpenters and Joe Jackson as readily as they showcase his respect for DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Spinna.

"Make a Rainbow" is purely devoid of irony: Sings doesn't undermine the singsong melody with grim tales of urban blight or rampant consumerism. Instead, the trippy verses, with their elemental references to rain and sunshine, sound like a call to arms for universal brotherhood. There's never a bad time for one of those.

Listen to yesterday's "Song of the Day."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.