CD Reviews

Review of Michael Franti’s Stay Human Vol. II

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By: Tyree Howard

Michael Franti wants the world to endure love and positivity as he showcases this message musically on his latest album “Stay Human Vol. II”.

As the founder of the reggae fusion group Spearhead, Franti’s music has always embraced revolutionary ideals of peace, love and understating. In 2001, his album Stay Human focused on the death penalty and how the world was becoming more and more about numbers. It explored the human experience from joy and love to hope and despair.

“Stay Human Vol. IIserves as the follow up to that album, with a completely different direction as its predecessor.

The album explores themes of hope, motivation, and the desire to make a difference during tumultuous times. It was released after his documentary Stay Human, which spotlights people around the world who are making some sort of difference — such as a midwife from Indonesia who traveled to post-hurricane Philippines to deliver babies in the midst of massive destruction. 

The documentary also takes a look into Franti’s life, like coming to terms with his father’s alcoholism, examining the roots of his depression, even learning of his mother’s stroke and son’s kidney ailment.

Stay Human, Vol. 2” is an extension of the film, as those events helped shape the album’s message of staying human by dealing with and overcoming life’s obstacles through difficult times.

The 14-track album kicks off with Little Things, which is about appreciating the little things. It’s a mini-anthem that reminds everyone that the little things matter.

Franti said he wrote the song after the numerous mass shootings that have recently taken place in the January/February 2019 issue of Relix.  

“One of them was the Route 91 concert in Vegas,” Franti said about the song, “I had a show that same night [at the Oro Valley Music Festival in Tucson, Ariz.]. When I walked offstage, the news about that shooting was the first thing I came across on my phone.”

“The fact that it happened at a country concert, of all places, really hit home for me and taught me that gun violence is affecting everyone. In the song I say, ‘I remember when a bar fight was a fistfight/ It never ended in a gunfight’.”

His message of peace and positivity serves as the album’s theme, but the term “love” is another emotion he explores in different ways throughout the album.

There are love songs for his wife, love songs for his fans, and love songs for humanity; all woven around Franti’s signature reggae-infused pop beat.

“Just to Say I Love You”, “You’re Number One”, and “Enjoy Every Second” featuring AGodess, are prime examples of how Franti is able to perfectly display the different meanings of love from the love he has for his wife, himself, and the world.

That title track Stay Human 2 sums up what the entire album is about, of finding hope through dark times.

Franti said when he was filming the documentary he realized the “stay human” message was about being our authentic selves.

How can we be our authentic selves in this world that’s constantly trying to hold us to those measures?“, he recalled. “How do we show up as being the person that we are? Outside of our body and our possessions, what is left and how can we help that shine in the world?

He once again drew experiences from his personal life to help create the tone for the song.

“My mom was somebody who really did that for me, so this is the song I wrote for my mom after she had a stroke last November,” he recalled in the Reflix interview. She was the one who told me—after I was being bullied—“You’ve got to go back out there and look those people in the eye, look those fears in the eye.” She really gave me that courage and tenacity.

The album ends with “Take Me Alive”, as it shows Franti vulnerability with only his voice and acoustic guitar guiding listeners on the final voyage of the album’s journey.

It’s authentic and true to Franti’s musical glow that fans have grown to love him for. Stay Human, Vol. 2” is like a superhero being stripped of their superpowers and they realize they’re human. Instead of using that as a disadvantage, they use that motivation to help them become a better superhero; because, in the end, life is all about trying to be human in an inhumane society. And this album captures that beautifully.

Categories: CD Reviews, News

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