For better or worse, Astroworld is maybe the closest that Travis Scott will ever get to making his own version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. As with the recording sessions behind his mentor’s magnum opus, Scott flew an insane amount of talent to Hawaii to craft a defining statement of his artistry against a growing wave of critical skepticism. All the elements are here for a rager of a project — with production ranging from neo-psychedelic rock group Tame Impala to singer-songwriter/serial douchebag John Mayer, and superstar guests Drake, the Weeknd, and Migos — but one problem stands in the way: La Flare himself. It’s a problem that has plagued Scott’s previous releases — he’s consistently the least compelling component of his music, often sounding blasé as he lifelessly moans on about the wild lifestyle he leads. His verses are just too vacuous, carrying no introspection, emotional gravity, or any reason to care about the Houston-native’s endless antics and debauchery.
Dour bars like “Yeah, crib built like a prison where that bitch is gated (yeah) / Yeah, spendin’ all my time up there gettin’ faded” crop up throughout, and the insistence of non-stop braggadocio becomes tedious and tiring on a record that telegraphs aspirations of pure kinetic energy. “No Bystanders” encapsulates this problem perfectly: Lil Uzi Vert clone Juice Wrld sets the stage with a wild, Auto-Tuned intro, with G.O.O.D. Music-signee Sheck Wes shouting “Fuck the club up!” like he’s an honorary member of Three 6 Mafia. Everything’s set into motion, only for La Flare to exert himself with zero charisma and little humor. This ultimately makes Astroworld a prestige product in size only, a spectacle aiming for stadium status but without the personality to consummate those ambitions.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 1