In the Face of Derisory Hysteria (Born and Raised)
No, wait, listen…
No, seriously, like, just, wait, like, listen..
I know you all absolutely despise this album. Not because of its contents- I guarantee not a single person reading this has lowered themselves enough to actually listen to it- but because of who Jaden Smith is. And that’s fine: it’s completely your right to hate somebody because of their genetic background and what they look like, there are whole political parties for you!
You would never even think of listening to this album, because Jaden Smith is a teenage boy that you hate more than Bashar-al-Assad, and even if you did ironically listen to it* (for the fuckin’ bantz) the only accepted response to it would be to laugh it off as laughably inept. As you broadcast the megalolz, live-tweeting the album to your 84 followers**, irreparably grinding down two of your keyboard’s keys due to all the LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLs, there’ll be a tear in your eye.
Not because ‘SYRE’ is a unforgivably long album***, but because it’s a very, very good one. Inarguably flawed, and ocassionally laughably pompous, but frequently brilliant and often exhibiting flashes of ingenuity that could potentially flourish into actual genius.
In fact, it’s likely that the reason you hate this teenage boy is going to play a large part in the reason he makes such a brilliant pop star.
You hate him because he’s Will Smith’s son, and therefore grew up surrounded by incomparable privilege? That obviously meant Jaden had access to the absolute best recording equipment and the combined influence of his Dad’s Rolodex. Oh, and you might want to check the upbringing of all your favourite bands: not one song you’ve ever liked has been written by someone who wasn’t brought up richer than you, Albert Hammond Jr’s Dad owns Tanzania for God’s sake! Unless, erm, they’re not white, which… erm… yeah… Jaden was surrounded by privalige, he did have a leg up, but he’s used that opportunity to craft an absolutely unique artistic statement.
You don’t like him because he’s a bit weird?? If you don’t think pop stars should be a bit weird then you don’t actually like pop music and should instead spend your leisure time enjoying other pursuits like counting the dimples on golf balls or the seconds until the glorious release of death.
You don’t like him because his Twitter feed exposes him as being a bit of a brainless numpty garbling nonsense under the pretence of profundity? I don’t know about that, let’s look at his last few Tweets:
- ‘Water is only wet because we are too scared for it to be dry’
- ‘Whom chucks wood at the woodchucks?’
- ‘Simon never said’
- ‘Ed Balls’
- ‘I am higher than Mogwai because Mogwai not for sale’
Alright, fair enough, he Tweets like an idiot. Like a freaking teenager!! Jaden is massively pretentious, but as I’ve pointed out previously pretension in all its forms is only good in music, as it inspires thoughts or just pretences outside of the box and encourages music that’s provocatively different! Sure, there are many instances of Jaden’s ‘Twitter voice’ coming through, and the actual lyrics are definitely the album’s weakest issue, but I promose you that you will be amazed by how freaking good some of the songs on ‘SYRE’ are!
Christ, that Steve Miller Band song is just awful, isn’t it? I mean, apart from the bit where some people call him Maurice (WHIP-WHOOOOOO!) it’s an absolute affront to music. Thankfully, Jaden’s Dark Knight is here to save the day, as Batman is one of the absolute greatest songs on the record, and one of many to pick to play to someone and get them really into it before revealing that it’s by the weird child of the Fresh Prince who’s unintentionally hilarious on Twitter
Jaden wins! +5
‘SYRE’ has it’s faults, oh boy does it have its faults! Jaden hasn’t yet learned how to better cloud his influences (and his ‘influences’ mainly involve one man), so you get a song here (Watch Me) that isn’t just ‘inspired’ by Black Skinhead but just is Black Skinhead! He even cribs ideas from artists he admires that he didn’t realise were mistakes: on last year’s ‘Life of Pablo‘ Kanye West ad-libs on one song that it’s the bonus track, but later reshuffling of the album obviously moved it into the middle. Jaden nonsensically repeats the ad-lib here mid-album on the nine minute (!!!) Lost Boys, because… that’s what you do isn’t it…? That’s what Kanye does…
You may have noticed me mention there that ‘SYRE’ has a nine minute song. And a seven minute one. And a six minute song. This is one of the reasons that Smith frequently ends up producing music that’s close to unique in 2017: rap music unafraid to present itself in ‘suites’ and embrace nonsensical concepts. While hideously inconsistent, ‘SYRE’ often actually bridges a gap between hip hop and prog that’s always fascinating and often amazing. I honestly can’t stress how freaking good some of this album is.
It’s insanely flawed, but fascinatingly so, and most of its mis-steps result from over-ambition, which is actually rather admirable on a debut record. There were countless better albums released (kayfabe) this year****, but few are as provocative, ambitious, baffling and intriguing as Smith’s debut, and few are as rewarding to revisit. ‘SYRE’ is a triumphant mess of a record.
And Jaden was 18 years old when he made it. Aside from all the (often well deserved) laughter, he may well turn out to be a prodigious talent (though maybe get Dad to write the lyrics in the future, it’d still be an improvement)
Age: 19 (-17)
Oooooh, that’s an early blow that’s gonna be hard to come back from
Album Length: 70 minutes (-24)
I’ve trimmed the behemoth down to a manageable 9 tracks, removed the more obnoxious flights of pretension (and lost some very decent songs in the process), including completely jettisoning the slightly nauseating B, L, U, E album opener. I left in the nine minute Lost Boy because I felt its slightly bloated pomposity was rather key to the album, but otherwise I tried to slice it down until only the pearls remained (Ninety may be seven minutes but it’s a minor masterpiece). Jadey boy, let me edit your next album: this could be top 10 Necessary Evil material
Very Good Songs: 7 (+14)
Brilliant Songs: 4 (+20)
AMAZING Songs: 2 (+20)
No, srsly you guyz
% of Album Worthwhile: 76.4705882
Hey, it’s a nice font, and I like his hair
Previous Entries: None
Meta Critic: 69
Jesus, 1’100 words on Jaden Smith… I’m never finishing this list…
*You can’t ‘ironically’ listen to something. I’ll come back to this issue later on, because I’ve got plenty to talk about here, so that’s something to look forward to in your otherwise miserable life
** More than twice as many as me, but who’s on trial here?
***Well, not just because of that…
**** Not really ‘countless’: there have been 48 better albums