SONG REVIEW: UGLY.
The goosebumps start with the first few lyrics. They don’t stop. Yahto Kraft may be just 18, but he has the sensibility, the cojones and the focus to take on the flaccid stereotypes of this world with complete clarity. And win. His debut single, Ugly, released on April 17 2020 through youtube, spotify and other internet platforms, has the internal energy to ignite a movement.
One need only think of the way in which Kate Bush’s 1979 song Wuthering Heights shifted perceptions of what a great song can be, flying in the face of expectation. Bush, too, was 18 when her debut single emerged and shattered all standards, rising to the top very rapidly. Ugly is no Wuthering Heights in terms of its literary references, though the tale it tells is not that different.
Of the ilk of Jewel’s astonishing 1995 song about perceptions of beauty and uncomfortable realities, Pieces of You, Kraft’s work is about identity and visual appearance. It’s about the scary business of searching for love in a world where you want feelings to be true, but you know your heart is easily broken. It evokes the astonishing moment in Gavin Krastin and Alan Parker’s work 2012 dancework cellardoor that involves Krastin lip synching to Christina Aguilera’s I am Beautiful, as it contains the spirit informing much of the tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating and proud writing of Nomali Minenhle Cele.
While Kraft’s work does all these things, it is not derivative. This young person knows himself and his parameters and the complicated work which he’s heir to with an intimacy that belies his age. Couched in a glam rock aesthetic, the work is articulate and professional, succinct and catchy. It feels like the start of an unforgettably fine career.
- Ugly is written by Yahto Kraft and Matthew Marinus. Produced by Joshua Oostehuizen, it features Yahto Kraft (vocals), Joshua Oostehuizen (guitars), Vinnie Henrico (drums), Anthony Koopman (bass). It is mixed by Joshua Oosthuizen and Audio Culture and was recorded at Orrison Studios.