Benjamin Clementine, a Londoner of Ghanaian descent, left the city for Paris at age 20.  He spent two years busking and living rough in the city of lights before being spotted in the metro and subsequently signed by Parisian label Behind.  Now 24 years old, the singer songwriter has seen success after success. In June he released his EP Cornerstone and earlier this month a new version with acoustic sessions was released in collaboration with the French online music service Deezer. 

The original EP comprises three songs, two of which are performed acoustically on the Deezer sessions EP (‘London’ and ‘I Won’t Complain’) in addition to ‘Quiver a Little’.  The EP’s titular song ‘Cornerstone’ provides an arresting introduction to the soulful and raw voice of the young singer.  The simple piano complements Clementine’s varying tones, ranging from smooth and treacle-like, to gruff and breathy.  Every note and every lyric is weighted in his unadulterated, emotional style. 

'I Won’t Complain’ reveals a strikingly sombre style, accompanied by a gut-wrenching piano ballad melody.  The verses are tranquil but slowly build until the choruses when Clementine lets rip his growling battle cries, "but I won’t complain, no I won’t complain", showing striking similarities to the mastery of Ray Charles. The final song of the original EP, ‘London’, is  liltingly poetic, mounting and descending in energy; it is guaranteed to keep any audience hanging on every note and word. 

The two acoustic songs included in the Deezer sessions edition highlight how this young singer is best in concert. He sings with even more abandon, letting loose more trills and breathy notes. The deep, roundness of his vocals brings to mind Nina Simone. Indeed, his voice has a certain unusual quality that separates him from most contemporary singers.  The newly introduced song, ‘Quiver A Little’, combines slam-like whispering with bold, soulful notes. The song shows a distinctly jazz edge, creating a sound that is far and beyond any current pop music sound.

Clementine has an album set to release in 2014, and he will be performing in the UK in the coming months both as a supporting act for Woodkid and as a headline act.  He also performed last week on Later with Jools Holland.  His performance is captivating, pure, with painful emotion shining through his voice and his expression. Listen to the performance, his EP and let yourself be shaken and seduced by his towering talent.