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Tunde Olaniran Gets 'Vulnerable,' Announces A New Album Due This Summer

Tunde Olaniran's new album, <em>Stranger</em>, comes out this summer.
Landon Speers
Courtesy of the artist
Tunde Olaniran's new album, Stranger, comes out this summer.

For Tunde Olaniran, art is about big ambitions, bigger ideas and the relentless pursuit of joy and comfort within his own skin. The Flint, Mich., native's bold and wildly dynamic 2015 debut Transgressor announced him as a playful multi-hyphenate provocateur who sings, raps, writes and choreographs from a vast well of creativity.

This summer, Olaniran will release a follow-up called Stranger that promises to delve even further into that well. The songs he's teased so far — last year's " Symbol" and "Hungry," and now "Vulnerable" — suggest a desire to soften and deepen his sound a bit, without dulling his creative drive or weighing down the buoyancy of his arrangements.

The singer describes "Vulnerable" as "my soft, femme trap anthem," which in Olaniran's case means it unleashes some more genuine and life-affirming statements about individuality, identity and filling in the margins of your life with the right amount of risk-taking.

"I wrote it while sitting in my car and not wanting to go into work," he writes via email. "The same day, I picked up the phone and called my supervisor and told her I wanted to leave a company I'd worked for my entire young adult and adult life up until that point. I'd reached a point where I wanted to be honest about my aspirations as an artist. 'Vulnerable' is a reminder that change and growth are scary, and often you won't have a safety net. The song is me trying to re-create the feeling of free-falling and landing in your own embrace. 'Vulnerable' is a reminder that life isn't promised, and that I should nakedly pursue joy and happiness while I have the chance."

As for Stranger itself, Olaniran promises something a bit more stripped-down and traditional than Transgressor.

"Thematically, Stranger was written and came together while I was touring with Sleigh Bells. My last album was a mash-up of singing, rapping and a lot of high-speed vocal tricks. I realized I missed simply singing a full song. I wanted to write an album that still had very fun and unexpected production, but with songs that I could also sing with just me and a piano or guitar."

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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.)