TRACK REVIEW: Ina Reni- I Thought You Were Gay



Ina Reni



I Thought You Were Gay




I Thought You Were Gay is available (to pre-order) via:

25th May 2016

Pop; Soul; Jazz


Berlin, Germany/London, U.K.


EVERY time I look for a musician- in order to review them- I seek something…

different, unique and special. These may seem like words that can be applied to a whole host of musicians: you’d be surprised how few actually fit under that banner. I am not suggesting the majority of new musicians sound like others- little distinction or personality- but it is getting harder and harder to sound truly fresh and without comparison. Today, it is easier to record music than ever before. The cost involved- to create something quite basic, at least- is fairly inexpensive. You do not need to go to a studio and fork out thousands of pounds: the bedroom-trained, D.I.Y. musician is becoming more prevalent and in vogue. Because of this: we are subjected to so many different kinds of artists. Those that remain in the memory- for whatever reason that is- should be promoted and applauded. I hear so many artists that can be compared with others- they do not stand from the crowd and give anything we haven’t heard before. My featured artist is someone who has her influences: she is one of the most idiosyncratic musicians I have heard- you’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone else. Before I come to her, I wanted to have a quick look at international artists- those hailing from Europe, especially- and why London is providing a second home. When we think of brand-new music: often, our minds go to the U.K. or U.S.- maybe Australia- but do not really concentrate on mainland Europe. German bands- Ina Reni was born in Germany- like Dagobert and Karies are two laudable German bands: the latter is fresh out of Stuggart. Der Ringer, Cro and Susanne Blech are providing what a diverse and strong musical economy Germany has. The likes of Granville, La Femme and My Friend Is are putting France on the map- from a nation that has provided M83, Phoneix and Nouvelle Vogue. Europe should not be overlooked- with regards great, innovative sounds- and ignored. What I am finding- besides the proliferation of great, European acts- is a pull towards London. The capital is an alluring and tantalising pull for so many musicians: a city that provides opportunities, fascination, and cosmopolitanism. If you are one of the London detractors- I hate those people- who whine about pollution (I don’t often walk down the streets choking on exhaust fumes) and overcrowding (what do you expect?!); the ‘rudeness’ (I live in a small place where the people are far ruder) and high costs (the wages are higher: there are affordable parts) really get on my nerves.

Those who bemoan and criticise London have not given it time and really spent time there- musicians are realising what a city (London) is. Ina Reni has a fascinating, rich D.N.A.- half-German, half-Bulgarian- who is based in London. Finding inspiration and spark in the capital: it looks like she is here for a little while at least- let’s hope she stays a lot longer. Before I raise a new point: let me introduce Reni to you:

London based German/Bulgarian singer-songwriter Ina Reni breezes in with her own brand of cool, sassy humour. 
Having performed widely across London’s important music venues and festivals, Ina made
herself known for her distinct vintage inspired pop sound. Her debut single “I thought you were gay”,
in which she describes the awkward situation that results from misjudging your best friend’s sexual
orientation, will be released on 25th May

Having been involved in the Berlin Jazz scene- as a 14-year-old she was bitten by the Jazz bug- Reni relocated to London last year. Since then, she has been immersed in live performances- taking in some of the most charming, hospitable parts of the city- and making big strides. I Thought You Were Gay is her debut cut- her E.P., Plan A, will be unveiled later this year- and marks the arrival of one of music’s most exciting talents. On paper, Reni is pretty much your ideal musician. Her music has originality and memorability: humour, stand-out lines and a true Pop core- plenty of power, soulfulness and upbeat. She has those girl-next-door looks: a gorgeous young woman who captures the heart pretty readily. It is when you dig deep- looking at her past and what she is capable of- does your heart start to skip a bit. I have encountered so many artists that are rather pedestrian and one-layered: when you dig deep, there is not much to wet the appetite. In Hungary, artists like Compact Disco and Amber Smith have come through- it is a nation that has produced a lot of fine and stunning music. Reni has a fond love for Eastern Europe and the music there- you get shades of that in her single. Throw in an admiration for Jazz; a love for 1950s and ‘60s Pop- mix that with modern-day Hip-Hop and Reggae. Reni is making strides and working hard to achieve her dreams. Realising music is a battlefield- you need a huge budget and team behind you most of the time- she is not willing to compromise creativity for quick success. Her goals are to remain in music for a long time: forge a successful career and get her music into the charts. Nobody would bet against the young star getting there. She is one of the most determined and passionate artists I have seen. Constantly working and crafting material: I am confident Ina Reni will be a big star in years to come. Anyone that is expecting your run-of-the-mill, committee-directed Pop starlet should think again: Reni is her own boss and calls the shots- she is not someone that does things like everyone else.

The opening seconds of I Thought You Were Gay have a certain charm and playfulness to them. The piano notes dance and skip with merriment and infantile abandon. It is hard to listen to the sound without having a smile on the face. Such a care-free sense of alacrity comes out. After the introduction- that has Jazz shades and elements of Ella Fitzgerald to it- our heroine comes to the microphone. The song looks at a particularly personal moment. Recounting her gym trainer- who will remain anonymous- there is that recollection of the initial meeting. Ensuring her voice is determined and clean: “You were so funny/and I loved your sexy elephant tie” compel myriad images and something quirky. Knowing some history behind the song- Reni disclosed the origin in an interview with FM– the listener will be picturing scenes and seeing the story unfold. Reni has admitted how her sexual orientating compass sucks- trying to guess whether someone is straight or not. In this case, she is somewhat off the mark. Finding the guy cute and funny: he is good for an afternoon’s fun/training- not someone that would be interested in her, necessarily. Having become “best friends” and having a lot of fun: the assumption is everything is fine and dandy. It seems- as far as Reni is concerned- there will be no sexual tension and misunderstanding. The guy started getting “all weird” which caused confusion and head spin. Initial impressions- the guy being gay perhaps- is contrasted by a very clear come-on and flirtation. It seems (the guy) has romantic intentions and is interested. Praying it is not true: our heroine delivers the realisation with a sense of shock and weariness. The penny is dropping and the truth has come out: a rather ironic choice of words, perhaps? I can imagine that moment- when the guy reveals he’s straight- would have caused embarrassment and blushes.

It is not clear what would have caused the initial impression- about him being gay- but perhaps it was the fashion sense and a playful manner- maybe a muscularity (TOO much time in the gym) or just a general aura. Whatever led to this assessment has come back to bite. Reni hums and purrs: she puts so much expression and conversation into the song. Not just delivering her lines with a formulaic approach: there are tender little utterances and accentuation. The chorus mixes ‘50s Jazz with ‘60s Pop: horn blasts that recall the glory-days of Bacharach and David. Composition-wise, you could imagine the likes of Dusty Springfield or Dionne Warwick tackling such a sound. The warm, brassy blasts sit beautifully against punctuated piano and scuffling percussion. The band is tight and in-step throughout- ensuring the chorus is as big and urgent as possible. Reni brings in syncopation to give the story a sense of rush (perhaps blood rushing to her head) and nerviness. Finding out her trainer is straight- it would be interesting to see how that conversation went- there is a sense of backing out and stuttering. Few would be able to reverse the chat with much dignity and good excuses. Being in a sticky situation- “I didn’t mean to turn you on”- there is a distinct Englishness to the track. Idioms and phrasing would lead you to think Ina Reni was a British artist- she reminds me a lot of Yorkshire musician, Jen Armstrong. As I Thought You Were Gay progresses and caresses: you fall in love with a very pure and silky voice. Sexy and velvet-smooth on the one hand; sharp and cutting on the other- such a striking and gorgeous sound. There are no histrionics and needless baubles: Reni keeps her voice level-headed and straight (again, poor choice of word) throughout. Having entrenched herself in a mess of confusion: she now has to explain herself without sounding cruel and callous. “This really goes beyond my area of expertise” shows a truth and humorous side. Not used to these situations- although her sexual-compass-clumsiness suggests there might have been occasions like this- it is a very embarrassing and fraught scenario. Whether recalling a German man- or whether this happened in London- there is no going back. Once again- something few artists do- there are idiosyncratic tics. Certain words are repeated: the pace changes and the song is constantly fresh, nuanced and unique. So many Pop artists deliver verses and choruses with a very basic and unsophisticated approach.

Ina Reni is a musician that brings the most from her lyrics. Ensuring her words hit the mark- and the song compels endless replays and repeats- she provides a wonderful vocal. For a man that wore “purple skinny jeans” and weird fashion- that is from a “different galaxy”- you could understand the assumption. If I saw a man wearing clothes like that, I might (falsely) assume he were gay. Being straight- but having a certain flamboyance to him- others are likely to make that mistake- Reni should not be too hard on herself. Not your average love song: I Thought You Were Gay is one of the most individual and original songs I have heard in a very long while. Nobody who hears the song could have it on in the background- it is something that demands full attention and imagination. I could see our heroine and instructor conversing and training. Sending her topless images- he seems like a bit of a sleaze to me- the ‘replay’ button was always hit- thinking the guy was gay and had no sexual intentions. Knowing the full truth- the guy was hitting on her- it is all-the-more embarrassing and awkward. There is a charming naivety to Ina Reni’s plight. If the tables were turned- and I, or someone like me, gained such attention from a woman- you would not (I wouldn’t, at least) assume she were gay.

If the truth were different- and she was sending pictures and flirty texts are harmless fun- it would be quite a shock. There is something about the dynamic here that keeps the song from being too tense or controversial. Every line will produce a smile; a stand-in-the-mind line and a modern-day Wildean witticism. For those laboring national stereotypes- that those of Germanic origin lacked a sense of humour- will have that myth dispelled. Ina Reni is not someone who goes for cliché and easy tracks: those that point the finger at guys and go for the woe-is-me-like songs. Turning a rather red-faced scenario into something productive and cathartic: few musicians have the skill and nous to do this. Whether Reni has heard of Jen Armstrong- one of those singers that go for the humorous side of life- the two should share a stage. Clearly, London has had an effect on our heroine. Vibing from the British sense of humour; the playfulness and oddity of the streets- I Thought You Were Gay is blends ice-cold cut with warm, sunny vibes. The guy has misunderstood all the signals and words. The two parties are on different plains with different agendas: she wanted a professional bond; he wanted something more romantic and sexual. In a way, you feel a sense of sympathy for the heroine. She has done nothing wrong and has been rather honest throughout- unknowing a guy was into her. In retrospect, the signs were all there: the topless snaps and forthrightness; the unfiltered flirtations- the misguided fashion was a red herring. “My hottest friend”- the guy will take this as a compliment one, day- you cannot deny one thing: many would have assumed he was gay. Among these heated and retrospective words: the composition continues its plight and offensive. Those parped horns still recall Bacharach/David gems; the percussion has a Jazz sensibility; there is deliriousness and infantile smile- an infectious and joyous soundtrack. Such a rich and colourful musical cornucopia: so many different genres, themes and ideas are presented in the song. Knowing what a strong and memorable composition is at hand: it is repeated with passion and delight; I can see the song being a live favouirite. The closing seconds see Reni layering her voice- “I didn’t mean to turn you on”- and harmonising. A very soulful and spine-tingling vocal choir: it is the perfect way to end the track.

I have always loved Ina Reni’s voice but it really hits its peak here. Constantly beautiful and smoky; honeyed and sensuous- so many different emotions can be found. The production values ensure the words are clear; the voice is high in the mix- so many artists distill their vocal; making it hard to decipher the lyrics. The composition does not get second billing at all. All those gorgeous strands are given proper representation and attention. Each element is blended together expertly to ensure I Thought You Were Gay is a stone-cold hit. It is a track that could easily make its way into the charts- embers of Meghan Trainor and U.S. contemporaries come to mind. Reni blends Americanisms and British witticisms together. The Pop sounds recalls California and L.A.; the lyrics have a British sensibility whilst the composition bring ‘50s and ‘60s Pop together with Jazz and Hip-Hop strands. You know how much attention and dedication have been put into the song. It is not a track that has been lazily slung together to get YouTube views and airplay. So much heart and work has been put in: for that reason, I Thought You Were Gay deserves acclaim and applause. Reni’s voice is one of the most stirring and striking in current music: someone who could make any subject sound intoxicating and essential. Few musicians bring humour into their music- and get away from straight love songs- so that’s another reason we need to hold Ina Reni close. Make sure you grab your copy on iTunes (on Wednesday) as it will put a smile on your face- you will be quoting the lyrics for weeks to come!

I have known Ina Reni for a while and am excited to see just what she can achieve. Right now, she has a crowdfunding campaign- at that will help ensure her career can continue and grow. Reni arrived in the country with ambition and determination. She has had to busk and perform on the streets: gaining experience and ensuring her voice is heard. Now- and for the coming months- she has gigs booked and a chance to seduce new crowds. She is someone that can easily seduce and get people hooked. There is an honesty and openness to her: a woman that wants to succeed and bares her soul through her music. A brilliant voice and rare talent: few people will be immune to her charm, strength, and drive. I can understand the lure of London: it is somewhere I have always yearned to live; will figure a way to work there very soon. Reni has many stories to tell- that will come to light in Plan A– and I feel we all owe her time, attention and consideration. Her backstory and upbringing has seen her travel from Europe to the U.K. She has tirelessly worked to get her music heard: the story is only just begun. The rest of 2016 will see I Thought You Were Gay being released, performed and (let’s hope) widely celebrated. After that, what is in store? An E.P. will be out and more gigs, for sure. So many new musicians are being dented and demotivated by the sheer cost of making music: the day-to-day reality of getting your ideas onto record. A hierarchical and money-intense industry: a lot are being scared off and limited. I guess there is no quick fix or easy resolution. Those who want it most- success and attention- have to keep going and battle. Reni is someone that will not give in and knows what she wants. Support her crowdfunding campaign as it will allow her to make music and get videos/songs made- without having to worry and stress.

That is the goal for any musician, I guess: being able to make music, unconstrained- free from the shackles of financial woes and struggle. I Thought You Were Gay highlights a unique artist with a sly humour at work: someone who works beyond the boundaries of been-in-love-got-my-heart-broken-the-guy-is-a-jerk songs. Plan A– when it is released- could see some heartbreak among the humour: Reni is not someone easy to pin-down and predict. For a debut single: I Thought You Were Gay is one of the most vivid, stand-out and original I have heard. I opened by looking at the appeal of London; the European music scene and artists that distinguish themselves from the flock. Ina Reni is not going to give up on her dream: she will find a way to do it and remain determined. London is the city to make music in- it is quite an expensive place to live/exist in. I can understand the coax and seduction of London: it is one of the world’s finest places; where young, ambitious people go to- to escape the boring and pointless towns/cities.

This year is going to be an exciting one for the German-born artist. She has already achieved a lot- her social media numbers are climbing; a few great gigs under her belt- and there is a lot of love, online. Fans are lining up to pay tribute to a very special musician. She is not someone who hides behind production teams and is told what to say. She is a very real and relatable person that opens her heart and speaks directly to the people. There is no fakery and ego: no pretense and controversy. What we have is a determined and strong woman who has left her birth nation to forge a new home. It is a scary and daunting prospect but have no fear: we will hear a lot more from Reni very soon. I cannot wait to hear new music and have loved investigating I Thought You Were Gay. You get- with the song- a gorgeous blend of modern-Pop and ‘60s sounds: ice-cool sassiness and something quite delicate. It is hard to distill and define her song- I have tried my best- because there is so much depth and layers in there. At its heart- I Thought You Were Gay– is a singalong, fun song that has plenty of memorable lines. For all the talent show-bred Pop stars out there: we need to start backing those doing things honestly- those with talent and longevity. I Thought You Were Gay is available to buy on Wednesday- it is available on SoundCloud– and worth every penny. The best and brightest musicians need funding and ongoing support. Such a competitive and expensive industry: we need to be more vigilant and aware of musicians’ plights. Ina Reni knows what she wants and is striving to achieve it. Having released such a bold and standout single…

WHO would bet against her?


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