Courtney Barnett and Genesis Owusu named on Barack Obama’s end-of-year playlist

Both artists have since responded to the ex-US President’s shoutouts

Barack Obama has shared his annual list of the best songs he listened to all year, and for the 2021 edition, he’s shouted out a couple of trailblazing Australian acts.

Of the 27 tracks listed on the ex-US President’s playlist, two are by artists hailing from Down Under: ‘Gold Chains’ by Canberra-via-Ghana rapper Genesis Owusu (from his landmark full-length debut, ‘Smiling With No Teeth’) and ‘Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To’ by Sydney indie-rock stalwart Courtney Barnett (from her acclaimed third solo album, ‘Things Take Time, Take Time’).

Both artists responded to the honour on social media, with Barnett sharing a casual message of thanks, and Owusu dropping an all-caps burst of excitement. Take a look at their responses below:

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Owusu later took to his Instagram Story with a heartfelt message touching on the fame he’s seen since ‘Smiling With No Teeth’ came out back in March. He said the album “has changed [his] life in a lot of ways”, and noted that he’d initially doubted its potential.

In his statement, Owusu said: “There were a few times in the creation process were [sic] it seemed like this album probably wouldn’t do much for me except for indulge in whatever artistic impulses I was having at the time, especially in an industry (Aus esp) that’s not known for celebrating stuff like this much. 

Closing out the post with a message of encouragement for his bourgeoning peers, Owusu continued: “I just hope all of this serves as a testament to someone, somewhere that this is what can happen when you trust in yourself, and do you unapologetically, regardless of consequences or how much time it can take.”

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‘Smiling With No Teeth’ has been a monumental release for Owusu. Thus far, the album – which he’ll tour with The Black Dog Band in March – has earned him four ARIA Awards and two J Awards, an inclusion on the shortlist for this year’s Australian Music Prize, and two nominations at next year’s BandLab NME Awards.

The record also topped NME’s list of the best Australian albums for 2021. In his write-up, Jackson Langford called Owusu “an artist who thrives in and is liberated by chaos, never once willing to stifle his ambition or his emotion”, and noted that his “unwavering tenacity” led ‘Smiling With No Teeth’ to become “[a] cathartic and singular response to the intertwining menaces of mental illness and society’s deep-seated anti-Blackness.”

‘Things Take Time, Take Time’ also made it onto the list, taking out third place. As per NME’s Craig Mathieson: “Whether it’s saying goodbye to a former love on ‘Before You Gotta Go’ or hoping for a first spark of romantic recognition on ‘If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight’, [Barnett] compresses her wry wordplay and guitar melodies down to an intimate essence that’s deceptively casual in its unadorned brilliance.”

Elsewhere in Obama’s playlist are standout releases by the likes of Little Simz, Mitski, Lil Nas X, Lizzo, Cardi B and Parquet Courts. In separate lists, he also revealed his highlights from the world of film as well as his favourite books.

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