Travis Scott’s long-awaited Astroworld is finally here. The Houston native has been championing the release of this album for years, and the heralded producer/rapper was effective in making this project one to remember.
Sitting at 17 tracks and just under an hour of runtime, Astroworld immediately comes off as an album that was created to be a grand masterpiece, portraying the heart and soul of a theme park that was stolen away from its city.
Throughout the album, Travis pushes his energetic Houston sound to its limits. While his
style of rapping grows tiresome at times, his intense production keeps every track gripping. You’ll hardly find yourself zoning out while listening to this album, as his signature beat-switches are as fresh as ever.
The album opens with “Stargazing,” a track sonically defined by its booming bass and rumbling vocals. Lyrically, Travis combines the feeling of awe and inspiration of stargazing while under the influence of psychoactive drugs, the crazy energy of his live shows, and the feeling of riding the actual roller coasters from the famous park: Astroworld. The first section of the song represents the psychedelic stargazing, “Whatever I’m downin’ got me goin’ crazy / Psychedelics got me goin’ crazy.”
The second half features a compelling verse about the meaning of Astroworld to Travis: “’99, took AstroWorld, it had to relocate / Told the dogs I’d bring it back it was a seal of faith.” He always promised the people close to him that he would bring AstroWorld back, and this album is the fulfillment of that promise. Sounds of screaming roller coaster riders are an effective artistic touch.
After the monster of an opener, “Carousel,” continues the theme park motif, as a Frank Ocean feature supports Travis on a beat that sounds like a carousel, with spinning and circling synthesizers. Frank’s feature isn’t one of his best performances, but he reinforces the feeling of the song effectively with his signature high-pitched vocals.
“Sicko Mode” is the third track and features an intense intro verse from Drake, but the hype doesn’t unfold into much. Drake’s second verse later on the track features several funny references, including one to new Cactus Jack label member Sheck Wes and another to his own use of Xanax; “I did half a Xan, thirteen hours ’til I land / Had me out like a light.” It’s refreshing to see a mainstream rapper using drugs for their prescribed purpose.
A man of his roots, Travis encourages rappers to “Stop Trying To Be God” on the fifth track of the album, featuring Kid Cudi, James Blake, and Stevie Wonder. “Stop tryna be God almighty / Fuck the money, never leave your people behind.”
A winding, haunting harmonica section from Stevie Wonder keeps this song interesting, as Travis sinks too deeply into the beat during his verse, creating a song slower than necessary. Kid Cudi is acceptable in his role of just humming all over the song, but James Blake brings it home with his strong, clear voice.
Travis’ best rapping performance comes on the next track, “No Bystanders.” His verses are motivated and aggressive and featured rappers Juice WRLD and Sheck Wes do well to handle the chorus and hook.
At surface level, the track seems to be a song warning the dangers of aggressive party life and drug use, and that’s exactly what it turns out to be. On a technical level this is Travis’s best rapping, but the verses come off as nothing more than instructing his fans to go crazy at his shows.
The Weeknd is featured on the next two tracks, “Skeletons,” and “Wake Up.” Unfortunately, the R&B star doesn’t come through on either of his features, leaving much to be desired. His performances are tedious and unimaginative, and Travis can’t do much to salvage either track.
“Yosemite,” is an early fan favorite, featuring an entrancing first verse from Gunna. The track develops and takes life as it goes on, but is limited by a laughable verse from Nav. The content of the verse isn’t what makes it poor, but the low volume and tone adopted by the Canadian are so quiet and soft that it takes away much of the momentum gained throughout the track.
It’s tough to justify the presence of “Butterfly Effect,” on the album. It only fits in with the rest of the album content-wise inasmuch any Travis song would, but the blandly accessible instrumental doesn’t match up with the rest. It appears to just be an addition to boost the album’s streams.
“Coffee Bean,” is a succinct and concluding outro track to the grand album. It’s a dark and brooding track, as Travis gets deep in his emotions about his relationship with his girlfriend Kylie.
He reveals tension in their relationship, touching on familial disapproval, accidental pregnancy, and overall miscommunication. The song provides a personal touch to an otherwise over-the-top album.
Although this album as a concept is clearly very personal to Travis, the project is largely defined by its features. Scott’s vocal ability isn’t enough to carry the 17-track, hour-long album, and the featured artists are too inconsistent to convey the meaning that Travis was going for.
The feeling of the AstroWorld amusement park might not be portrayed to the average listener, but this album is sure to be meaningful to people with close ties to the closed theme park.
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