Monday, May 29, 2017

Lil Yachty - Teenage Emotions Review

There's a popular theory amongst musical teaching that intends to dissuade students from learning too much. An asinine statement to make in any other field, the limitation of knowledge actually has benefits when it comes to the progression of music. How? Well, if students are seeking to flourish in a career as an artist, creativity comes first and foremost. Being taught to replicate the ways of past and current musicians alike will only cause future trendsetters to succumb to imitation through a conventional approach. You may be asking how exactly this relates to Lil Yachty? Expand the parameters of the theory and you soon realize that the curious appeal of Lil Yachty stems directly from this unknowing state. He was, and still is, a goofy adolescent whose minimal knowledge of music, and how to make it sound good, indirectly caused his success as a creative enigma in the Trap scene. By knowing next to nothing, apart from what spun on Atlanta radio stations, Lil Yachty was able to unintentionally create a sound never before attempted. Many hated the Bubblegum Trap, many adored it, which only strengths the argument. Problem being, on Teenage Emotions, his official debut, Lil Yachty has begun to learn. 

Being surrounded by contemporaries, instead of outcasted, has inadvertently caused the red-haired marketing man to pick up on traits he would've otherwise neglected. Not for reasons of personal taste, but because his scope as a musician wasn't elaborate enough to understand formalities. Because let's face it, Yachty is not a good musician. He flat out sucks. And yet, he created 'Wanna Be Us,' a song that I consider top five of 2016. Or even a mixtape, Lil Boat, that I'd put in the top 25 of last year. How can that be so? It comes when music understood directly as a means of entertainment collides with someone in-tune with their own, accentuated taste. Much of my adoration of Lil Boat came on the basis of individuality. There was, and still is, nothing like it. Nursery rhyme simplicity filtered through the glitzy modern era of teenage excess created this sub-genre of Trap that could've only been attempted by someone with no shame, and no standards, for what's deemed appropriate in Hip-Hop. With Teenage Emotions though, Yachty strips back his peculiarities, tries neurotically to muscle up and prove the doubters wrong, essentially succumbing to his own limitations by trying to be someone he's not.

Spread across the 21 tracks and 69-minutes are mindless showboating, endless sexual innuendos and misogynistic slurs, and money-flaunting the likes of which I've never seen. Even the title, Teenage Emotions, seems entirely unrelated to what actually occurs within, as the insipid romantic ballads bear no tangible emotional ties while the rampant hypocrisy exists elsewhere. One minute Yachty's objectifying women ('Dirty Mouth,' 'All Around Me') the next he's smooth-talking ('Lady In Yellow,' 'Bring It Back'), the next he's begging for forgiveness ('Running With A Ghost,' 'Made Of Glass'), all the while making a mockery of those aforementioned relationships. This type of content isn't new for Yachty, he's always been about this lifestyle, but ironically, when he's finally able to live it instead of fantasizing over it he feels faker than ever. Even though he's certainly not self-aware enough, the inclusion of your massively cliched, mom-worshipping finale 'Momma' (which sounds like a Chance The Rapper cut) might be the funniest moment on the entire LP, given the deplorable events depicted beforehand. 'Momma,' and much of those tracks listed above, are cheesy, autotune-bleached ballads, which have always been part of Yachty's forte despite being unquestionably the weakest part. That doesn't change here.

On his previous two releases though, Yachty's piss-poor content was forgiven thanks to sheer musical zaniness. I laughed his idiocy off because 'Wanna Be Us' or 'Minnesota' were just too damn preposterous to ignore. Here, the vast majority of the production can be ignored, something that was hardly ever the case on Lil Boat (and even Summer Songs 2). The reasoning for that is quite simple, and it's a question of who's in charge. The answer? Nobody. While Yachty's partner in crime, Burberry Perry, produced five of Lil Boat's material, providing an extra bout of confidence for Yachty to stay weird, Perry only appears here once ('Running With The Ghost'). In fact, only three names have multiple credits here, meaning there's 18 different producers trying to do one of two things; imitate Yachty's Bubblegum Trap, or create something equally as goofy or cheesy to try out. Almost every single one fails. In the former's case, it's because of the musical knowledge they've acquired, in the latter's case, it's because Yachty doesn't work over anything other than what he knows. Tracks like 'Harley' and 'Like A Star' attempt Lil Boat's innocent imagination, coming up far too complex and unremarkable, while others push for evolution, resorting to uncalled for tropics like 'Better' and 'Forever Young.'

While Teenage Emotions wallows in abominable fluff, there are a few bright spots to commend. 'DN Freestyle' and 'X Men' continue the high-octane non sequiturs Yachty has previously featured on bangers like 'Mase In 97' and 'Up Next 3.' These short, combustible tracks still work because of Yachty's boundless charisma and unpredictable language. Elsewhere, 'Priorities,' despite sounding like Kesha's 'Tik Tok' for a second, finds the ATL teen temporarily becoming self-aware, unraveling a story on why his "priorities are fucked." Then there's 'No More' which sounds like a more experimental dvsn R&B cut if it were inspired by Kanye West's use of autotune. Lastly, somehow, 'Bring It Back' is the best thing here. The ultra-kitschy 80's Synthpop elaborates upon 'So Many People's' sleek mystique, going overboard enough with the cheesiness that, just like Yachty's best material, it's so bad it's good. Plus there's a saxophone outro a la M83's 'Midnight City.' How could you not admire that? If only the rest of Teenage Emotions harbored that sort of youthful wonderment. Instead, the beloved spark that was Lil Yachty has officially been burnt to a crisp, his tenure as Trap's lovable loser replaced by 69-minutes of inept self-validation. A genuine outcast trying to fit in results in a humiliating experience for all. So much for that all-inclusive cover of freaks, geeks, and rejects.

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