Rei Kennex’s musical mind works in mysterious ways. Though she won Ukraine’s largest national music talent show and has pitch perfect pop-star pipes, she is anything but today’s typical female pop star. Her inspiration transcends that genre. Whereas most of her peers worship today’s hottest artists, Rei finds her musical inspiration in film scores, sci-fi books, and imaginary worlds.
“I was always fascinated by the beauty of storytelling,” says Kennex, who was born and raised in Ukraine and currently calls Los Angeles her home. “My family taught me to appreciate all art forms, and I grew up going to the theater, galleries, museums and performances. Music in Russian cartoons and later scores by Hans Zimmer, John Williams, and James Newton Howard sparked my interest in music. I also have a deep love of Disney magical soundtracks, namely Alan Menken’s work. It was actually watching The Little Mermaid that made me want to sing, and it’s on my Bucket List to voice a badass Disney princess one day!”
Her unique influences don’t stop there. She’s a self-proclaimed sci-fi and fantasy “geek” whose passions run the gamut from authors Michail Bulgakov (“Master And Marguerite”), Neil Gaiman (Stardust), Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Ann Aguirre (Grimspace) to movies like Star Wars and various classics.
“I create music that not only triggers the listeners emotions and hits them on a visceral level, but also immerses them in the story that I’m crafting,” explains Rei. “Some of the most fascinating worlds exist in a human’s mind, and we spend a lot of time inside our heads, exploring and adventuring. I project emotions and feelings of my real life into those imaginary places, and they turn into lyrics and music.”
All of Rei’s songs have a unique duality. “They are cinematographic,” she continues. “On the one hand, they envelop the audience in a post-apocalyptic world or an enchanted fantasy tale, but on the other hand, they are universal in their appeal and relate to what people are going through in their real lives as well.”
Her debut EP, Mind Game, which is due in 2016 and produced by Grammy Award- nominated producer Barry Weeks (Kelly Clarkson, Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell, Krystal Meyers), is ripe with her refreshing, modern approach to songwriting. She mixes her signature vocal combination of powerful notes interspersed with soft, haunting vocals with a musical backdrop of cinematographic pop with an edgy modern sound and sharp pop sensibility. It’s the Gemini in Rei, who co-writes all of her songs, that pushes her to go from epic, atmospheric sounds to vulnerable and intimate musical moments on each track.
Unlike most of today’s female pop stars that sing about boys, Rei puts the spotlight on life’s struggles and challenges with an either blatant sincerity or vibrant metaphors. The story, told in her latest piece “Alone In The World”, focuses on the ongoing battle between the good and the evil that takes place inside every human, and, most importantly, the struggle with oneself. “A short film, set in post-apocalyptic future, served best as a visual complement to the song, since the track was written and produced with an intention of film/TV placement,” she says. Rei stepped forward as a visionary for this project and took part in every step of the process, focusing on bringing her character to life through both emotional and physical performance. While establishing a Universe of its own kind, the video creates a multidimensional world with its own set of rules and stories.
“Alone in the World” is about introspection. “When I moved to New York, not knowing anyone forced me to really go inside myself a little deeper. It’s such a high-energy city that I love, but I needed to find moments of peace for myself and reevaluate certain things,” she explains. “That’s why this EP has more sensitive sides to it,” she explains.
The title track, “Mind Game,” on the other hand, is more abstract. “It’s about being in a space, – physical or emotional – that seems surreal,” she continues. “Mercury Rising” is a fun, anthemic, and inspiring song for whoever needs to be lifted up and who needs to feel that everything is ahead of them.”
On “Fly Away,” Rei takes on the role of a superhero. “A superhero always comes and saves everybody. But what is going on inside the superhero? Do they embrace the burden of saving the world or choose to walk away? I want to put the listener in the mind of that superhero on this song with a soaring musical soundscape,” she says.
Rei doesn’t have to think twice about her personal and professional mission. “I believe that art is my tool, it must serve a higher purpose, and being the voice for animal rights and contributing to wildlife preservation is an inevitable part of what I feel I’m called to do.” In addition to volunteering at animal organizations, she also has a deep passion for promoting the importance of having a strong moral core and values that are more than skin-deep.
Growing up, Rei would sing along to her favorite records and tunes in Disney movies, and started taking piano lessons at age 7. She began fronting a pop-rock-jazz band before entering a number of prestigious music competitions and TV-shows where she received several first place awards. Rei’s major break came when she won the national Ukrainian music competition show American Chance, shot in LA. Her performance wowed guest judge, platinum R&B star Brian McKnight, who described the young talent as “lovely and charismatic.”
This big win gave Rei, who has two Master’s degrees in International Relations, the nudge she needed to quit her day job as successful local TV anchor and move to the U.S. to work on music full time. The artist released three singles in 2014 (“Top Of The Universe,” “Who I Am,” and “Armor”) that drew such critical raves as this from Turnedout.com: “Her musical experimentation vocally, visually, and instrumentally all are intriguing. Her beautifully lyrical voice, overall musicality and stunning lyrics all put her in a class of her own.” Pandora compares Rei to Ellie Goulding, Sia, One Republic, and Imagine Dragons, while others draw parallels to Christina Perri and Birdy. To bring her songs to life, she enlisted the help of an award-winning team for her music videos.
The pop world needs an imaginative artist like Rei Kennex — someone who sees music differently, blurring the borders between established genres, and paints vivid pictures with her unique musicality and artistic vision.