Bladee might be the most exciting voice in music, and The Fool is his most polished, refined record yet.
“Confess your sins,” Bladee begs listeners towards the start of The Fool, inviting an act of apparent purification, self-healing, and resolve. “I guess I’m just the fool, I don’t know anything,” he later laments over Ripsquad’s glimmering synth-pop beat, confused and downtrodden by this revelation, one that inverts his opening command and discloses a vulnerable admission. The song’s 808 snares continue to kick, his voice wails in the distance; in a sense, this is Bladee’s “Rockstar Made” in terms of sequencing (first track on their respected albums) and general intent (kicking things off in media res). Taken as is, The Fool’s intro also serves as something of a microcosm into what the Bladee experience entails these days: the inner-turmoil that’s imbued into each track’s Neville Goddard-inspired lyrics; the radical epicurean morals that are instilled into the listener’s soul; Bladee’s lush Swedish vocals liberally slathered with auto-tune; and the cosmic, cloud rap soundscapes that brush up against electronica stylings. He’s been on a hot streak recently — one comparable to Michael Jackson in the ’80s and Stevie Wonder during the early ’70s — where the sonic ambition of each of his projects has increased in tandem with his critical acclaim. He’s only getting better, more confident with his craft, and it’s showing on each of his newer releases in more definable terms. He hasn’t really improved as a singer, or even changed up the formula that radically; if anything, he’s unified the broadest elements of his expansive sound into something more easily digestible and cohesive, something far more harmonious than one would imagine possible considering all of the underlying circumstances. But one doesn’t need to be a good rapper to make rap music — and while Bladee isn’t really rapping, he’s not really singing either, so the same logic can easily be applied to his vocals.
The Fool, by that metric, is a breakthrough for the Swedish artist, one that finds his genre swapping at its most polished and refined, as if ready for mainstream public consumption (Bladee even says at one point that he’s a “good boy” who refrains from cussing). The ephemeral magic carpet journey “Let’s Ride” is propelled forward by its minimal trap beat, but its gentle vocal harmonies and Noble Eightfold Path promotion balance out any supposed edge to the production. The whimsical “I Think…” serves as a good counterbalance to the hedonistic “Hotel Breakfast,” which leads into the likes of the rave-inspired “Thee 9 Is Up” and poppy “I Want It That Way” — all before nearly capsizing from the weight of “BBY” and its bright, bouncy synth-heavy intro. The sonic palette Bladee engages with here is impressive not only in its rich versatility, but also in how miraculously well-tuned each track is structurally — love or hate the guy, he knows how to write solid choruses and air-tight melodies, ones that seem like pure gibberish on a first listen and… to be honest, still sorta sound the same on a second. But these are mild shortcomings, never strong enough to ruin the holistic achievement. For those willing to engage, they should eagerly repent while they still can; the rest of you heathens can remain sinful.
Published as part of Album Roundup — May 2021 | Part 3.