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Album Review: Utopia

I want to start off this review by saying that music is subjective. As listeners, I think we often forget that when dissecting music and exploring its impact on our lives, everyone always gathers different reactions and opinions. It's important to remember that these are my personal thoughts on an interpretive piece of art. It's how this body of work impacted me. Even though we may find common ground, we might not. I believe music is supposed to bring people together and inspire healthy discussions surrounding an artistic vision. Now that I've gotten that out of the way… UTOPIA by Travis Scott. 

​UTOPIA marks the fourth studio album that Travis Scott has added to his discography. Before getting into the album, I think it’s near impossible to talk about his newest album without mentioning the Astroworld tragedy that pushed the release back and vastly changed the album. UTOPIA is Travis Scott's first album since the Astroworld tragedy, which left 10 people dead, including a 9-year-old boy. This is a big deal because tragedies of this nature have an effect on the artist and, in turn, impact the art they create. In this case, I would imagine it's reasonable to assume that applies to UTOPIA as well. I would derive that Travis's experiences and emotions from that tragedy impacted this project.  

This background is important because the UTOPIA album we received differed from the original cuts of the album (from what I've heard). I believe in separating the art from the artist (until it infringes on your moral principles), but I also believe in using context to better understand an artistic vision.  

From a sonic perspective, UTOPIA represents a truly groundbreaking achievement for Travis Scott. It's a slight departure from his earlier work, embracing a darker, psychedelic, and more experimental sound that sets it apart from his previous discography. In the album, you can hear the influences from his past albums. I hear the psychedelic influence from projects like Astroworld, the grunge trap sound from projects like Rodeo and Days Before Rodeo, and the Southern Hip-Hop and trap influence from Birds in the Trap. Each song has a unique feel but still helps to contribute to the overall theme of the album.  

It'd be impossible to talk about the sound of the album without mentioning the artist formerly known as Kanye West or Ye. His influence is riddled throughout the entire album. An example that stood out to me was Telekinesis (feat. SZA & Future), which was originally a Kanye West song and was apparently gifted to Travis. I found UTOPIA comparable to Yeezus, which received mixed reviews and receptions from fans. Since Travis Scott helped to produce Yeezus and Kanye helped produce parts of UTOPIA, it makes sense that there would be overlap in the sound. The way the drums hit on many of the songs is reminiscent of the spacious, cinematic drums utilized by Kanye. It is no secret that Travis has found inspiration and a role model in Kanye West, and the album isn't afraid to show that.  


With that in mind, this album did some really great things. The opening, HYAENA, was big and loud. It sampled the second verse of "Proclamation" by Gentle Giant. The Gentle Giant's track aimed to give the perspective of a newly crowned king addressing his kingdom. It was bold, memorable, and was the perfect lead into the rest of the album. He DID shout out the Jayhawks in that first track, but we'll just gloss over that. From there, the album starts off really strong. A standout track for me was "MY EYES," which features one of the best beat switches I've ever heard. Travis then delivers one of my favorite verses from the entire album. This song was a major high. The next few tracks are still quite good, but as I previously said, "MY EYES" stood out and was tough to compare. It leads into a song featuring Drake that I enjoyed. I think TikTok always helps to gas up new Drake verses, but I think this verse is overhated. I will say it felt like a bit of a lazy verse from Drake. It's not an all-time great Drake feature, but it's cool… I guess. The next song features another TikTok favorite, Playboi Carti. I consider myself an occasional Carti enjoyer, but not much of a fan. I think he's been able to craft a really unique lane and his own iconic style. Like he said, "…bought my momma a house off this mumblin'...," so power to him. This song was made to rage. It was made to mosh. It's high energy and brings the energy levels to the album to about an 11. Playboi Carti also unlocks a new low-voice variant, which I didn't even know was him. Maybe I'm crazy, but I thought it was Nudy with a lil cold or something. Still a cool track, though.  

DELRESTO (ECHOES) with Beyonce was a single that dropped before the album, so I had already heard it. I KNOW ?, TOPIA TWINS and the chorus on PARASAIL stood out to me. These songs were all obvious reminders of how talented Travis is with his voice. His ability to match his voice perfectly to any beat he's on is skillfully unmatched. Nothing really pulled me out of my chair until I got to TELEKENSIS (FEAT. FUTURE AND SZA). I knew this song was originally a Ye song, which surprised me that he even put it on his album. On top of that, he added two features in SZA and Future. If there was a track that truly could make you feel like you were floating, this is the one. In essence, UTOPIA demonstrates Travis Scott's vocal finesse and artistry, with "TELEKENSIS (FEAT. FUTURE AND SZA)" shining as a standout. The album ends on a high note with TIL FURTHER NOTICE feat. James Blake and 21 Savage. Immediately what stood out to me was the "Metro!" tag in the opening. Metro Boomin has been on an absolute tear this year and delivered yet again. This track isn't crazy, but it's a solid way to close out the album.  

One critique I always hold of Travis Scott is his lyricism and content. Every Travis project is going to have great production and great flows, but the content is usually the same. I think anytime we talk about rappers, lyricism and content must at least be discussed. These stories, experiences, and lyrical content are what rap/hip-hop is built upon and will always be a concern for rap fans and the community. Now, at the end of the day, I'm not going to a Travis Scott album to talk about the political and economic state of the world. I honestly think that I feel this way because Travis's production is so top tier, it forces audiences to take his music even more seriously. This isn't really a knock-on Travis or the album, but more of a personal gripe with UTOPIA.  

In conclusion,

Like I said, not everyone will feel the same way I do about this album. Music is subjective. Art is subjective. What I know is that this album is Travis being Travis and I'm excited to see what he decides to create next.  


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