On “Nobody’s Home,” Bakar Explores Heritage, Faith, and the “Future Immigrant”
On February 25th, British singer, songwriter, and model Abubakar Baker Shariff-Farr – aka Bakar – released his debut album, Nobody’s Home. Full of incredible instrumentals, catchy hooks, and poignant observations on his life and upbringing as a first-generation immigrant in the UK, Nobody’s Home is a step inward for Bakar. After 2019’s hit single “Hell N Back,” Bakar looked inside, partially due to COVID restrictions in the recording studio, and came up with the tracks that make up Nobody’s Home. How did it turn out?
In short: incredible. There is almost no wasted time on this album. Bakar has an uncanny ability for writing songs and pacing them expertly. No matter how long a song is, it never feels too long. No matter how short a song is, it never feels too short. Everything feels exactly as long as it needs to be, and Bakar deserves all the props in the world for that alone.
To expand a bit more, Bakar spends the whole album tackling hard topics with impeccable precision. On tracks like “Youthenasia,” “The Mission,” and “Not From Here,” Bakar covers topics like killing parts of the self that a person doesn’t find worthwhile, a desire to build a legacy that allows for nepotism, and the loneliness of being a first-generation immigrant. Lyrically, there are no problems on this record. Bakar’s lyricism is perfection, and there’s nothing critical to say about it. The hooks are memorable, and the verses are powerful. What more could you want?
Instrumentally, there are moments that lean a bit too heavily towards one style, and the juxtapositions that are present on some tracks are not present on others. Bakar is at his best instrumentally when he’s going for pieces that draw from multiple influences, and there are some tracks that lean a bit too heavily into one thing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead to some weaker instrumentals. Many people have compared Bakar to Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, and that is apparent on “Reclaim!” More than any other track, “Reclaim!” leans towards the alt-punk feel. It’s a great song, for sure, but it does seem slightly out of place sonically on this album.
However, for every Bloc Party moment, there are plenty more moments where Bakar is reminiscent of Kid Cudi. The urge to ask this man to hum on a track is real. Bakar’s voice is wholly unique, drawing from plenty of influences to create something that is simply Bakar. That’s why the different instrumentals sometimes make the album feel like more of a collection of songs than a cohesive unit. Lyrically, these songs are all deeply connected and phenomenally powerful. Sonically, though, there are differences track to track that are sometimes a bit jarring.
However, that’s a lot of negativity towards an album I just called “incredible.” Let’s get back towards what Bakar does right. “The Mission” is one of the top songs of the year so far. “NW3” is an alternative rock-influenced track that features some of Bakar’s strongest vocal delivery. “Gotham” has an instrumental that sounds like it’s right out of a Gorillaz session to go along with Bakar’s phenomenal lyrics. For everything I just laid out that doesn’t work, everything else about the album makes up for it.
Also, from a production standpoint, this album sounds amazing. Even when the instrumentals are sonically confusing in the way they jump around, there are no moments on this album that sound off or bad. Everything sounds the best it possibly can, and there are background vocals on some of these songs that almost outshine Bakar’s leads, particularly strong from Celeste on “Gotham.” This album is so close to perfection that it’s hard to say anything too critical about it aside from the jumbled instrumentals.
To be completely honest, that’s not even a big issue for me. The lyrical threads Bakar ties together allow for the different instrumentals to create a sonic collage that shows just how much the young artist can do. The multi-faceted approach to music and visual art as a model gives Bakar an edge that many of his contemporaries will never even come close to, and although it might seem like I was overly critical of “Reclaim!,” honesty dictates that I mention it is one of my favorite songs on the album. I’m on record as stating that being obvious about influences is not a bad thing, and I stand by that.
I love this album, and I can’t wait to see what Bakar does next. Check out Nobody’s Home below, and let us know what you think!