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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Kevin Abstract's sophomore album evokes nostalgia, lacks in charm

With a style that screams hip-hop, but a sound more fitting for a coffee shop, Kevin Abstract makes himself out to be anything but your typical artist. After nearly two years in the making and multiple title changes, Abstract released his second studio album, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story. As its title would suggest, the album is a throwback to high school relationships, ’90s pop rock and coming of age films, orchestrated through Abstract’s introspective stream of consciousness. American Boyfriend paints a new direction for Abstract stylistically, moving away from modern hip-hop to focus more on acoustic instruments, harmonic singing and an effervescent atmosphere that walks the line somewhere between indie rock and pop. Abstract aimed to capture the feelings of self-discovery and suburban life, and American Boyfriend does just this, evoking nostalgia with a sound that is warm and a message that is relatable.

The album starts off with the single “Empty,” an anthem to the love-struck teenage years which we try to forget. At first glance this song could be passed off as cliché, but a deeper look into the lyrics unveils Abstract’s personal struggle with his own sexual identity, a recurrent theme throughout the album: “I got a mom but we ain't spoke and I don't know, I had a heart that don't speak to me anymore.” The track sets the tone for the rest of the album and showcases Abstract’s ability as a vocalist, flipping between laid-back melodic rapping and powerful lead vocals with hints of falsetto.

One of the more notable aspects of American Boyfriend is the storytelling Abstract provides throughout. Songs like “Papercut,” “Miserable America” and “Echo” give us a personal account of the problems with homophobia and racism he faces. They are not hard to miss either, as Abstract chooses not to dance around these issues, instead offering a straightforward and outspoken delivery. “My best friend's racist, My mother's homophobic, I'm stuck in the closet, I'm so claustrophobic.”

Unfortunately, Abstract oversaturates the record with these same stories over and over again, and by the end of the album the emotional appeal that initially made them so powerful is lost in their redundancy.

The production value on American Boyfriend is one of the record’s strongest facets and is ultimately what keeps the album interesting from start to finish. The album incorporates many different stylistic influences into its tracklist, offering upbeat indie rock cuts, groovy R&B joints reminiscent of The Weeknd and deep south hip-hop vibes, to name a few. If nothing else, American Boyfriend shows how Abstract cannot be held to just one genre; he is a versatile artist capable of creating quality music in a variety of styles.

For his sophomore album, Abstract shows signs of promise throughout with an array of catchy tracks that are well-produced and fresh, but as a whole, American Boyfriend feels like a drawn-out retelling of a handful stories from Abstract’s teenage years. That’s not to say any of the music is inherently bad, but some of the charm gained from his lyricism is lost due to the repetitive nature of his message. For that reason, some of the songs on American Boyfriend would be best consumed on their own instead of in the context of the entire album.

However, in today’s world of hyper-masculine hip-hop, American Boyfriend can be seen as a breath of fresh air. Abstract’s unconventional openness with his homosexuality, exceptional production value and incorporation of a variety of musical influences all work together to create an atmosphere that is both unique and unexpectedly pleasant.

Grade: B

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