Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers

I'm a firm believer in giving new albums a chance. Maybe it's because there are enough annoyingly vocal people on the Internet yelling "This new album is different to the others so it SUCKS." Or maybe it's because I get funny looks from my friends when I say I like Muse's The Resistance as much as their earlier stuff. But I am compelled to keep an open mind when new tunes are released by the artists I like.

And I won't front in that regard; I love Lupe Fiasco. When I heard that his new album (and potentially final one, if his desire to only release his mixtape and 3 albums holds true) was in production, I decided to not spoil myself until it was released. I eventually caved, and listened to his single, 'The Show Goes On' and...
It was different, so I kind of hated it. And then felt bad for my sentiment. But no matter how I sliced it, the more 'top 40 rap song' beat wasn't what I looked for in Lupe, and it disappointed me. But on the other hand, it increased my hope that the album would be really varied in style.

As it turned out, that turned out to be exactly the truth. Lasers has been split neatly in two - almost to the degree where I'm starting wonder if it's intentional. The first half boasts almost all the musical tropes I can't stand: a male, boorish backing of "Oh oh ohs" on ‘Letting Go’, the flat, half-singing on ‘Till I Get There’ (though the lyrics for the verses are incredibly clever), and upon listening to a few forgettable others and getting to ‘Beautiful Lasers’, you're pelted with a full-on auto-tune chorus.

But then, ‘Coming Up’ happened. Leading in with a neat and simple piano riff, the beat dropped with a big helping of synth strings, and suddenly everything flashed back to early 2000s R&B. The sudden change was incredibly relieving, but my pessimistic side expected it to be a fluke. This was followed up with ‘State Run Radio’, which solidly proved me wrong. The cute radio-tuning sound effects and cheesy rock guitar melody made me think of a more mature-sounding Gym Class Heroes (that's not a bad thing, I promise).

‘BREAK THE CHAIN’ (capitalisation theirs) goes on a '90s club bent with a drum loop that almost made me fall out of my chair. Sway features as a guest rapper, and part of me was happy to know that the British lyricist hadn't entirely faded into obscurity.

‘Never Forget You’ and ‘Shining Down’ are somewhat weaker, not quite demonstrating the musical or lyrical style of the tracks preceding them; but ‘All Black Everything’ and ‘I'm Beamin’’ shine through as the best tracks on the album, delivering some incredible lines. They're great concepts; and exactly what I love about Lupe.

Lasers may be bifurcated in its musical quality, but Lupe Fiasco's rapping skills and meaningful lyrics definitely haven't dulled. And in time, I can grow to accept, maybe even enjoy the more mainstream first half. Though I'll never grow to like auto-tune. Jay-Z was pretty off in his predictions.

This article has also been hosted on The Yorker. You can find it here.

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