Jason Derulo might be the number one artist, but Kevin Rudolf did the melodramatic urban opera shiznit first. “Let It Rock” was passably diverting and genre defying, a stadium rock take on R&B, and To the Sky is Rudolf’s follow up record. However, released in the shadow of Derulo’s goliath debut, which is as irresistibly catchy as it is infuriatingly irritating, To the Sky comes up as neither of these things.
A record that neither gets stuck in your head nor screams to be turned off is a non-entity, a space for substance simply filled with air by artists with nothing to say. And as guest rapper after guest rapper makes an appearance on Rudolf’s sophomore effort, it’s shocking as to just how little this supposed all-star line-up of American’s most successful urban names actually have to say.
Lil Wayne makes two appearances, each besmirching his reputation further, including the lazy middle-finger anthem “Spit in Your Face”, which rehashes the grunge-hop of Wayne’s own “Drop the World”, but this time round the urban-rock crossover resembles Nickelback meets Timbaland, a pompous match made in hell. Rudolf takes this one step further with “Big Timer”, a shockingly blatant copy of Nickelback’s “Rockstar”.
Wayne also appears alongside Birdman and Jay Sean on lead single “I Made It”, which is autopilot for all artists involved. From the holier-than-thou wall of synths and saccharine lifeless R&B croons of Sean, to Birdman’s and Lil Wayne’s respective streams of unconsciousness, the track is nauseatingly dull. The two rappers seem content to let rip about money and rags to riches, subjects which can apparently never be mentioned enough. But when Rudolf’s sluggish throwaway of a backing track is anything but diverting or exciting, all artists involved seem like deluded bores well past their sell-by-date. Talk of the devil, Flo Rida’s air gun flow (of sorts) only exacerbates the clumsy romantic metaphors of “You Make the Rain Fall”, which unfold monotonously over Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” backing track.
Rudolf nicks middle-of-the-road urban pop cliches left, right, and centre, and To the Sky is subsequently devoid of personality. To his credit, Rudolf is more diverting when he drops the tepid hip-hop collaborations and dabbles in shameless powerpop hooks. “Must Be Dreamin’” sports poppy guitars and vocal hiccups that Katy Perry wouldn’t be ashamed of, and the track has enough simple melodic charm to warm to. But it’s clear that Rudolf exhausts his melodic creativity remarkably swiftly, and spreads the residue thinly over the rest of the record.
Kevin Rudolf is (barely) living proof that the high saturation of sub-mediocre diluted R&B in the charts has left creativity lagging behind in fourth place behind glamour, money, and how crisp a handclap you can produce.