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Don't Be A 'Stranger' To Tunde Olaniran

Tunde Olaniran's new album, <em>Stranger</em>, comes out Oct. 5.
Steven Piper
Courtesy of the artist
Tunde Olaniran's new album, Stranger, comes out Oct. 5.

A Flint native who's become a staple of Detroit's music scene, Tunde Olaniran knows his way around hyphens: A singer-rapper-activist-choreographer-producer-you-name-it, he presides over a bighearted sound and style that revolve around spirited statements of affirmation, a sprawling artistic palette and the pursuit of boldness in every sense of the word.

The irresistible 2015 anthem "Namesake" (from Transgressor, Olaniran's auspicious debut) helped raise his profile via word of mouth and placement in an Apple ad. Now, he's returned with his second album: Stranger, which expands on themes of individuality and ambition as channeled through hard-won self-belief. Amid arrangements that feed off a spirit of zippy elasticity, the singer ruminates on his pursuit of belonging ("I'm Here"), risk-taking ("Vulnerable") and the strength humans need in order to strive and thrive ("Mountain").

But Stranger isn't all pep talks and soul-searching: In "Celine Dion," for example, Olaniran has a blast bragging about a flair for low-budget fashion while name-dropping the titular singer — not to mention Lady Gaga and Tilda Swinton. "Coins," as its title suggests, is a springy ode to getting paid, albeit one that finds a way to name-drop Steven Universe. It all adds up to a finely calibrated mix of purpose and playfulness, executed to stylish perfection.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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