Travis Scott, review of the new Utopia album

One of the comments that best describes the situation came after his concert in Milan last July 1st in front of eighty thousand people immersed in rain and mud, in a scenario that is a bit like the Apocalypse and a bit Crazy Max. This was written by many, critics and journalists, but not only. The point is that the actual performance Travis Scott was modest that stage presence can turn even stillness, silence into gold and tension – this is wonderful, but the performance itself remains cold and spartan, and only he and the DJ on stage are not too loose; understand everything – what’s the point, let’s understand each other – it was publicwhich, like a tested rite, gave way to a series of messianic deeds, from dancing to moshthat make live performances and the art of the American rapper so unique. Of course, this was almost to be expected. And, of course, this attitude that started with him is a merit and is based on music. And which, however, is not music.

I think about it while I listen Utopiahis fourth album five years after the previous one Astroworld, the consecration of pop music and the tragedy of the Astroworld festival in the middle. You know it: in 2021 during a concert in New York eleven spectators died for the disturbance caused by exceeding the aforementioned ratio, and although he was cleared of all charges, it is not clear whether he understood what was happening, also because at the time of the apparently visible arrival of help, he did not seem to do everything to avoid the crime, he really continued to incite his, as if nothing had happened. It goes without saying that now the idea is to clean up the image and start over, and do it in style worthy of the global star we’re talking about. For those who lived on Mars: Travis Scott really Jacques Bermont Webster II, 32, was born in Houston and grew up in a good family, although he was excommunicated by his parents to finance his career, who did not want him to become a musician; on Spotify, he is a heavyweight with 56 million monthly listeners and has an inconspicuous presence in the global star system, but unlike many of his peers who appear to be digital avatars, he already boasts a living dimension that is, in fact, a legend. For this he prepared marketing campaign so colossal and elaborate that it has become an integral part of the artwork, including five covers, a live show at the Pyramids of Giza (never completed, but should now be restored in Pompeii if all goes well), a capsule collection and movie of which he is an actor and director along with film revolutionaries such as Gaspar Noe, Valdimar Johannsson, Harmony Korine and Nicolas Winding Refn. Even the discovery of the actors has become an event: the list talks about rare excessive power, from Drake and Bad Bunny to The Weeknd, Beyoncé, SZA and Bon Iver, but this was never explicitly announced, and the surprise lies entirely in the ear of the “listener”.

And it has always been that way with him. As the concert in Milan partly showed, there is a whole galaxy around his songs. The most commonly used expression, and rightly so, is:artistic vision‘: Travis Scott has an ‘artistic vision’ for music that goes beyond the concept of songs, records and tours and becomes an extension of his personality, modeled in part on godfather Kanye West, who discovered and launched him, as well as social fact which has connections with cinema and fashionin general, or who, for example, in 2020, a streaming concert on a video game was held in full lockdown Fortnite. But in 2018, during Astroworld, people have just begun to take action with these aspects; now that they’ve been established and he’s recognized as a sort of deity who has tentacles everywhere even before he’s even a musician, where does the unreleased album fit in that imagination? In the sense: what if all this becomes the limit?

Well no, I don’t think it will ever be the limit. But that such a perspective could make the disc just an accessory, one of many elements in Travis Scott’s imagination, is a yes. And it’s a pity because Utopia this is even a bold work compared to what one might expect: this time the show is not made by the audience and not by the accessories, but by the music itself. Music that closes accounts with a trap, of which it was also a blockbuster, and closes accounts in general with past and soft sounds; then reconnects to rootsespecially through some hip hop and trip hop alternatives that have their own Kanye West the main reference in the productions, in which, in addition to Ye (!), such names as James Blake and Metro Boomin are involved. But this does not mean that we are talking about an elite product. It is enough to take a virtuoso attack and an authentic villainous opening game. Hyenaor various Circus Maximus AND K-popwhat are they hits with remote control and ready to strike.

It is in the fact that inside, in any case, there is a new and even for him a desire to experiment. noble in references running through an ambitious list of nineteen tracks in which it becomes easy to get lost, lyrics in the style of a concept album (the meaning is more or less a search for utopia and human contradictions, but we never get close to introspection) Kendrick Lamar, and there is more than enjoy) or some bits from which they even fish psychedelia. The ability to connect distant names that are usually found side by side, for example, Beyoncé and Bon Iver in Delrest (echo) or even the same Bon Iver with Sampha on a mystical journey My eyes. Travis Scott chooses them, unites them and makes them play his championship; translated, Utopia create the worldbecause what you hear here you won’t hear anywhere else. And it’s a dark, gigantic world that needs to be deciphered.

The result is a pop work – in a broad sense: that is, which, given the numbers, speaks to many – which takes time to truly appreciate in all its nuances, and which, on the one hand, may seem almost wasting. Apparently, this is how the American rapper wanted to raise the level and image of himself as an artist who has always been perceived as a visionary, but never truly “profound”. And yet, with today’s fast food rhythms, there is a paradoxical risk that such a disc will not take root completely and you’re not getting the attention he deserves. The fact is that the contour is so precise, and it is so easy to call it ingenious, without even going into details, that you can dwell on the surface. In this sense, the invitation is to listen calmly, without stopping either at the beginning or at the battle songs (which, in general, are most out of context). Travis Scott himself seems almost provocative and wants to bring music back to the center of the mechanism that he himself started and in which he is one of the number one. We, and our laziness, keep up with him.

Headshot of Patrizio Ruviglioni

Born near Rome in 1995, he is a journalist and focuses mainly on Italian stories, pop culture, music and football. He has collaborated with Repubblica, ICON and Internazionale, where he has also worked as a documentary filmmaker and where he currently writes a song column for the children’s monthly magazine Kids. Prior to that he wrote for Rolling Stone, IL and L’Espresso, was an author here and there and earned a Pro badge.

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