I think I forgot to breathe for nearly three-and-a-half minutes while I was watching Kate Tempest performing at the Mercury Music Prize awards ceremony last week. With all due respect to Sampha, who eventually carried off the prize money, no other words carried such weight and no other performer wielded such a magnetic influence over the crowd as this 31 year-old poet-turned-rapper from Brockley in London.
Kate Tempest is already a national treasure and Tunnel Vision is the conclusion to the cataclysmic concept album Let Them Eat Chaos, released just under a year ago. The album is a bleak and gritty snapshot of the lives of seven Londoners all, for one reason or another, wide awake at 4:18am as a storm approaches the city. And in Tunnel Vision, the storm breaks.
Picking apart Tempest's acerbic lyrics here would be redundant - suffice to say that Let Them Eat Chaos essentially asks us to ponder the notion that we are living in a dystopian society, feeding our masses with "tasty poison", staring at screens "thinking we're engaged when we're pacified", willing victims of "the biggest crime that's ever been committed".
Producer Dan Carey, a fellow South Londoner who also worked with Tempest on her first album, Everybody Down, excels himself with Let Them Eat Chaos, providing a platform that supports the lyrics, never distracts from them. Tunnel Vision, the epilogue to Let Them Eat Chaos, kicks in with a sluggish, insistent, 97 BPM beat and warped Eighties synth sounds. And when the beat skips after the final lyric, it stops your heart for a moment as you are crushed by the weight of what you've just heard. And then, with a flourish, Dan Carey allows a little sunshine to break through the storm.
It's five minutes of grim reality-checking, but there's a tiny germ of positivity at the very end. Not because the world is getting better. It isn't. But because Kate Tempest has not given up. "I'm screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more," she says, earnestly, with a clear implication that those screams might prove futile. "I'm pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more".
You can learn more about Kate Tempest here
About the curator: Jon Ewing
After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.