This Saturday, entrepreneur, actor, designer and musician Jaden Smith released his second studio album The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story. A year ago, Smith released SYRE, which was received fairly well and gave Jaden a spot among young-yet-established rappers like Tyler, The Creator and A$AP Rocky. Aside from these two albums, he was also featured on songs by artists such as Logic and Young Thug.
While I wasn’t blown away by SYRE, the album showed creative potential as well as clean production and solid lyricism. I had some decently high expectations for this project and anticipated growth. Unfortunately, The Sunset Tapes is boring, to put it simply. Extremely monotonous and quite tasking to listen to, most of the tracks blended together in a hazy smog of L.A. cliches and generic R&B instrumentals.
The album opens up with the track “SOHO” — a brooding, lo-fi song that kicks off this record quite well. Most of the album is quiet as Smith soberly reflects on girls from his past. According to Smith’s social media, he dedicated The Sunset Tapes to “every single woman in the world” (thanks, Jaden). Despite his efforts to sound meaningful, many of his recollections of failed love are incredibly overdramatic. On this track he croons “said I’d give you the world and you turned it to a snow globe,” which might be a good line if Smith wasn’t being serious.
Smith took both a singing and rapping approach to his past two albums. This style is seen most commonly in Drake’s music, but isn’t exclusive to the artist. Though the track “Yeah Yeah” is a dead ringer for seventy percent of Drake songs with its dancehall beat and sensual lyrics, the songs “Plastic” and “Better Things” were also fairly forgettable for their simple trap beats and mediocre rapping. While lackluster, these songs at least broke up the tedious pace of the album, thus being stand-out tracks.
We’ve seen the videos and memes about Smith’s tweets and their pensiveness, which are just cringy. Unfortunately, this album is not an exception, and the corny lyrics are rampant. The Sunset Tapes tries ridiculously hard to leave the listener in a transcendental emotional state, but in actuality most of his metaphors and verses are completely hollow. “Play This On A Mountain At Sunset” is the epitome of the record’s dullness with Smith’s empty echoes of “mountains” and “fountains.” Throughout the album, Jaden attempts to paint these recurring images of landscapes and somehow connect them to an emotion or experience, yet it all sounds as vapid as the girls who broke his heart.
The last three tracks “Ten Ten,” “FALLEN Part 2” and “Rollin Around” were practically indistinguishable from one another. At this point, Jaden’s low mumbling, rap-singing and minimal, underwhelming instrumentals were completely exhausted. The album was far too similar and all the tracks morphed into one block of repetition. Also, I have to mention Smith’s line, “Real eyes, realize all your little lies” in “Rollin Around,” as if he were writing Tumblr poetry.
Smith made the choice to not include any features on his album. Considering how gimmicky or unnecessary features can be, I was at first impressed with Smith’s choice to opt out of them. He certainly has the connections to get a big name on the album, but made it his own. Yet, by the last half of the 36-minute album, I was wishing for any feature to draw my attention back.
There is little doubt in my mind that Jaden Smith will be around for a while despite The Sunset Tapes being a dud. He has exhibited artistic drive and creativity in other aspects of his life, such as fashion and film. Perhaps he just needs to find his unique sound or vision, or maybe stop trying so hard.
Final Grade: D-
Molly Carmichael is a music columnist for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.