“Imagination” by Kai Straw is an Indie R&B hit that skillfully whisks you away into a world of reminiscence and hope. Just by listening to it I envision myself with the ones I love, battling our struggles and supporting each other. I can feel the pain and the power of hope in each note.
The blissful background effects and slow beat creates a melancholy and nostalgic atmosphere. The powerful lyrics are very relatable for all of us reminiscing on the days before the pandemic and looking forward to a future of “better days.” Kai Straw paints the imagination as an escape and a safehouse to protect the protagonist and his companion from those dark days.
'Imagination' is from Kai Straw's ongoing project 'Through The Dark There Screamed a Guillotine as I Fed It Those I Love'. It was co-produced by his longtime collaborator James The Bear. Each single for this project is coupled with artwork depicting a skull. This piece, where the skull is made from the negative space between tree branches, was made by artist Hailey Badovinac.
'Imagination' brings to the forefront one of Kai Straw's greatest strengths, his vocals, and the complex emotionality he's able to express within them. His vocal performance implies a second story told beneath the lyrics, expressed with a performative vocabulary - inflections, vibrato and timbre - as if we not only understand the lyrics, but hear, too, the road that caused them. He sings over an ethereal soundscape, complete with organs and wraith-like vocal samples. These sounds build as a crescendo toward a final climax, complete with drums, his affecting chorus, and all the sounds that came before, creating a world for all he caused us to imagine. It's a song for all we wished we could save but were forced to let go of.
Recently, Kai Straw was selected by Taco Bell for their annual Feed The Beat lineup (alum including FINNEAS). He won 1st Place in The International Songwriting Competition for Best Unsigned, announced early May 2020. His discography continues to get heavy rotation without the support of a label or placement on editorial playlists, having accrued millions of streams independently across all major streaming services.
Conceptually, this is what inspired the song:
"I met this woman on Tinder (this story gets better, I promise). We were talking, enjoying each other, when suddenly, her distance jumps to ~2,500 miles away. She says, "Hey, I'm from Canada, but I really want to keep talking." We've talked almost every day for over 6 months (~3 hours at a time) and still do. But due to her obligations in Canada, and mine in the US, pursuing the connection isn't possible. I wrote this song for her, to somehow save us, if only in a song." - Kai
Kai Straw is a San Francisco based indie singer with a constant urge to create. His most recent album, “Everything’s Sweet” was released in 2019. His 2018 album, Gun, amassed six million streams on Spotify so clearly this artist is worth checking out. Normally you can watch him perform his music in nightclubs around San Francisco, but since they are closed he owns a Patreon account where he streams behind-the-scenes content about his songs and his creative process.
Written by Annika Johnson, Edited by Hannah Schneider