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Album Review: World Music Radio

Updated: 23 hours ago

The approach that Jon Batiste used in this album is a stark contrast compared to his previous jazz only influenced material. While that genre still exists and pervades throughout the album there is a larger goal that Jon Batiste appears to be trying to shoot for. “Universality” a concept that Batiste uses in this album in what seems to be part of his plan to take his music to a global audience and create an album that seeks a universal listener.

This universal approach is framed within the boundaries of a traditional radio show. Using this ubiquitous technology Batiste is able to connect with a global audience that he aims to convince us; are listening to a “World Music Radio” with the majority of the album being conceived like a timeless radio broadcast from a sort of interstellar DJ, gradually taking the listener from a hip-hop, pop and dance party to soul, Latin, folk and gospel. Beginning with a deep bass line in “Hello, Billy Bob” and continuing with a reggae-influenced beat, the smooth vocals of “Raindance” create a nostalgic feeling of familiarity to any American pop music listener, all the while giving those who haven’t heard a Native Soul song before, a culture shock that will leave you wondering what you just heard at the end of the second song on the album.

Particularly wonder-esque is the adult-contempo-ish "Calling Your Name," filled with a harmonica solo and fuzzy synth backgrounds. This comes after a build up of numerous features from Jon Bellion, JID, NewJeans, Camilo, Fireboy DML, Rita Payes and Native Soul. Spanning the first five songs these features create a feeling of diversity and expansion from the jazz background batiste was raised in. While simultaneously creating a feeling of vagueness and loss of personal connection to Batiste himself, all to try and imbed so many different directions of music that it can make you feel as if the album has no direction at all.

At one point it feels like moving from a rave to a church. From the tribal group chorus of “worship” to the soaring vocals of “My Heart” with Rita Payes into “drink water” with Jon Bellion & Fireboy DML who create a cloying summer jam. It’s the feeling of spontaneity that this album does a good job at maintaining, whether you like unpredictably or not; the first eight songs will leave you all over the place. That is until “Butterfly”, this intimate, soft piano ballad will pull at your heart strings with lyrics such as “butterfly flying home” and “all dressed in white,” this piece feels by far the most personal song on World Music Radio. Immediately following that “17th ward Prelude” helps set up one of the most powerful songs on the album “Uneasy” (feat. Lil Wayne) providing us with a jazzy piano synth that gives Lil Wayne plenty of room to show off why he is one of the best rappers of our time.

Now maybe I was too easily persuaded by the lyrics of “Call Now” but the opening lines acknowledge the enjoyment of the dancefloor and invite listeners to participate in a call-in contest. This sets the stage for what follows – a celebration of individuality and the freedom to express oneself. The intoxicating rhythm of “Call Now (504-305-8269)” features his dad, Michael Batiste and provides lyrics like “Your favorite song, you sang your song. Don't say I'm wrong, this is your favorite song” sold me on why this song is by far one of my favorites on the album. Not even including the fact that you can actually call the number 504-305-8269 and listen to the first song of the album. There are so many creative antidotes that Batiste included throughout this album that made it difficult to critique.

If I had to choose one song that confused me the most “Movement 18’ (Heroes) would take the WHOLE cake of confusion. I know that I should know the Lord’s Prayer because it is important to Catholics, Christians and any church that subscribes to Jesus Christ. But I also realize that if this is a “Universal” album for listeners all around the world then why was the Lord’s Prayer (a prominently Western) prayer included? For the most part I think it comes from Jon Batiste’s faith and how he aims to include as many people as possible when thinking/believing in Christ, no matter who they are, what they identify as or who they marry. When viewed from this perspective I gained a new layer of appreciation for the album and the amount of time Batiste spent pouring into songs like “white space” and “wherever you are” which help put a soulful, ethereal bow tie on an emotional roller coaster of an album.

The final song “Life Lesson” ends with Lana Del Rey and her heart wrenching emotional lyrics “You were my biggest blessing” and “I'm your life lesson” that make you want to choke back tears so that you don’t end up ruining the good vibes of the album. Batiste does a beautiful job highlighting so many talented artists throughout but almost loses touch with reality when trying to make a “universal” sound that attempts to allow all cultures to resonate with. Batiste toes that line of almost taking it too far where there is no cohesion and the songs are all over the place, while at the same time he was able to highlight some unique sounds that I’ve never heard before and I appreciate him for exposing them to me.

The thing I resonated with the most was the shoutout to radio culture throughout this album with Batiste’s DJ persona Billy Bob Bo Bob, who helped guide us through World Music Radio. Even though radio might be dying in some of its old ways; Batiste showed why the true nature of a “radio show format” will never die and can be used in more ways than one. He captures the spirit of keeping radio alive through connecting to a global audience via multiple features, genres and Billy Bob Bo Bob. Now, I couldn't think of a better way to conclude an album review over World Music Radio other than to use the words Batiste or should I say “Billy Bob” came up with himself in “Goodbye, Billy Bob.”

“Stay on the vibe.”


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