In Your Ear: R&B Singer Kem

For Detroit-based R&B artist Kem, music served as a means of turning away from drugs and homelessness. His newest album "Intimacy" hit stores in August. Kem shares the songs are playing in his ear.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, we round out our program from Detroit with our occasional series In Your Ear. That's where we asked some of our guests about the songs that inspire them.

Today we hear from a favorite son of the Motor City, R&B star, Kem. He joined us recently to talk about his latest album, "Intimacy," and after that we asked him about the music that moves his soul.

KEM (Singer): Hey, this is Universal Motown recording artist Kem. I'm listening to Sting, right now, off of the "Sacred Love" album. And the song that I like is "Stolen Car."

(Soundbite of song, "Stolen Car")

STING (Singer-songwriter; Musician): (Singing) Late at night in summer heat. Expensive car, empty streets.

KEM: Sting is a very interesting songwriter, and the story that he tells in this song, from the perspectives that he tells this story in this song, are really incredible.

(Soundbite of song, "Stolen Car")

STING: (Singing) I can hotwire an ignition, some kind of star, just a poor boy in a rich man's car. So I whisper to the engine...

KEM: It's about a guy who's stealing a car and imagining himself being somebody else. And the story is actually about this other person, and it's really deep, it's bad.

(Soundbite of song, "Stolen Car")

STING: (Singing) Oh the smell of the leather always excited my imagination. And I picture myself in this different situation. I'm a company director, two kids and a wife. I get the feeling that there's more to this one's life. There's some kind of complication, he tells her he's alone. Spends the night with his lover, there's a trace of her cologne. And the words of his mistress, as she whispers them so near, start ringing in my ear.

KEM: I'm also listening to "Human Touch," which is a song off of my current album, "Intimacy."

(Soundbite of song, "Human Touch")

KEM: I'm not plugging myself. I mean I really and this I'm really listening to it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEM: (Singing) Every finger was made for your delight.

KEM: It's a very sensuous song and probably some of the best lyrics that I've written. It has phrases like, don't you want to spoon in a garden of pillows we can share? I mean it's really cool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEM: (Singing) We cant lose with love on our side. And could use your affection tonight. Love was made just for us. Human touch. Human touch, hey girl.

(Soundbite of song, "Butterflies")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Entertainer): (Singing) Butterflies

KEM: I've also had in my rotation probably for the last five years, I've got Michael Jackson "Invincible," which is, as a whole, incredible an album. From track four "Break of Dawn" to "Butterflies", which I think is track seven. Just nonstop groove.

(Soundbite of song, "Butterflies")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) ...you give me butterflies. I just wanna touch and kiss. And I wish that I could be with you tonight. You give, you give, you give me, you give me butterflies inside, inside.

KEM: That's what's in my ear, Michael Jackson, Sting and me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Butterflies")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) And I wish that I could be with you tonight...

MARTIN: That was R&B artist Kem telling us what's playing in his ear.

To hear Kem's recent conversation with us about his latest album, "Intimacy," please check it out our website. Just go to npr.org, go to Programs, pick TELL ME MORE.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Were headed back to Washington.

Let's talk more from there tomorrow.

(Soundbite of song, "Butterflies")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) I just wanna touch and kiss. And I wish that I could be with you tonight. Girl you give me, you give me butterflies inside, inside and I just wanna touch and kiss. And I wish that I could be with you tonight.

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