‘What We Call Life’ is Jordan Rakei’s most vulnerable and intimate album to date. Its lyrics concern the lessons that the New Zealand-born, Australia-raised, and London-based artist learned about himself during therapy, a journey that began two years ago when he started reading about the ‘positive psychology’ movement. These themes manifest on songs like lead single “Family”, which Rakei says is “the most personal” he’s ever been with his lyrics. “I wanted to hit my vulnerability barrier and be really honest. It’s about my parents’ divorce in my mid-teens but still having love for them no matter what,” he explains.
With so many artists being influenced by his style, it would be very easy for Jordan to stay in the same musical lane; but, as in life, he is determined to move his music forward. Such introspective subjects are a departure from Rakei’s last album, 2019’s ‘Origin’. Raising big questions about the way that technology and social media interferes with our sense of humanity, ‘Origin’ received praise from The Observer, Mixmag, Complex, and GQ, earned an unexpected shout-out from Elton John, led to a collaboration with rap legend Common, and saw Rakei give a show-stopping performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
No stranger to collaboration, Rakei is closely associated with friends and collaborators like Loyle Carner (with whom he co-wrote, produced and performed on “Ottolenghi” and the Jorja Smith-featuring “Loose Ends”), Tom Misch and Alfa Mist. He has also joined Chic’s Nile Rodgers for a writing session and recorded with Terrace Martin, producer for Kendrick and Snoop Dogg, and Herbie Hancock.
On ‘What We Call Life’ Rakei dives deeper into his sound world, merging electronic with acoustic, and rugged grooves with ambient atmospheres, to create something richer, more detailed, and more textural than before. Rakei, already a practitioner of meditation and mindfulness, was curious about the potential of using therapy for further self-discovery. During the process, he began to learn more about his behaviour patterns and anxieties, and addressed his long-standing irrational phobia of birds – a fear often associated with the unpredictable and the unknown, and something explored in the album’s creative direction and visuals. “As we worked through it, it made me realise I would love to talk about the different lessons I learned from therapy in my music: about my early childhood, my relationship with my parents and siblings, becoming independent in London, being in a new marriage, understanding how my marriage compares to the relationship my parents had”, Rakei says.
2. Send My Love
6. What We Call Life
10. The Flo