Standout Track: No. 7, “Freak Show,” which, much like the carnival attraction, highlights both the fantastic and the grotesque in a personal reflection from the Grammy-nominated vocalist Wayna. Following the narrative of a little girl—or “little freak”—coming to terms with peer rejection, the lush, opulent song sounds occasionally unnatural in its layers.
Musical Motivation: “I wanted it to sound ugly and painful because that is the feeling of being an outcast,” says Wayna, a Rockville resident whose sophomore album, The Expats, is due out Nov. 12. Working with a team of musicians in Toronto, Wayna (real name Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen) didn’t initially realize how an early riff would come to transform the song. “It had this quirky, haunting, demented feel to it—-you can imagine a clunky clown dancing to it,” she says. Lyrically, the song is as personal as it gets, much like the rest of The Expats. “The little girl in the story was completely me and how I felt being an outsider to so many different cultures, even my own,” says Wayna, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in the Maryland suburbs. “I knew to call it ‘Freak Show’ and [make it] about being a freak.”
Premium Blend: Wayna almost named the album Freak Show; the track was the first song she and her Toronto team created for the album, and it eventually opened a door for the rest of the record. But she wanted to emphasize the international nature of the work in the album title. “We were experimenting all throughout,” Wayna says, “and I knew I wanted do something with alternative rock mixed with [an] African and reggae sound.”
Wayna performs Nov. 10 at U Street Music Hall. Listen to “Freak Show” below.