There are many an artist looking to jump on this Alternative R&B trend just because they can seem a little more sensible compared to Contemporary R&B and Urban-Pop artists. But a true Alternative R&B artist doesn’t behave with R&B influences; they disobey and work so far outside the lines they only remember it when they pronounce it directly. Classic examples include Miguel, FKA Twigs, Kelela and Quadron. For me, personally, the mere idea of throwing artists like Usher and The Weeknd into that foray is like putting Cheryl Cole in the list of the greatest singers of all time. It’s impossible. Usher and the Weeknd may be R&B singers, but they only flirt with experiments; they most certainly do not embrace it. Drake has managed to sink to a complete low and find a clone of The Weeknd in the form of Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, otherwise known as PartyNextDoor. The mere thought of hearing this album for the first time didn’t excite me, nor did it make me feel inquisitive. I just felt nothing. However, after listening to the album in its entirety, it seems that my low expectations for this record haven’t been met. They have been lowered dramatically.
The amount of issues with this album isn’t even numerable. For starters, let’s talk about the vocals. Jahron sounds a lot like the Weeknd and Fututre mashed up, but just a whole lot worse. Where the Weeknd embraces his vocal limitations and Future just gives his vocals the Auto-tune treatment, PartyNextDoor acts as though he can actually sing. He essentially coos like Future, except encompassing very little braggadocio in his vocals. To make things even more depressing, he cannot even hold a note when the moment calls for it. If you don’t cringe or vomit when he tries to reach the highest note in “FWU” you probably aren’t listening to the same song that I did. And background vocals don’t help either, like the groaning that surrounds “SLS”. I practically laughed all the way through the song as I heard someone grope for life itself. The best vocals are delivered on “Thirsty”, but they still don’t cover for the innumerable atrocious attempts at actual singing on this album. The abundance of clumsiness when samples are used is also very present; whether it’s the repetitive use of a certain Disclosure song throughout “Sex on the Beach” or the barely-audible Missy Elliot vocals on “Thirsty”, which samples “Ching-A-Ling”. Usually, you’d expect the sample to be used very cleverly. Here, it’s just thrown in without forethought like PartyNextDoor is making a soup out of everything in the kitchen without considering the ingredients.
PartyNextDoor Two also manages to (unsurprisingly) cover the same topics that the Weeknd happens to love to talk about: sex, love, clubbing and girlfriends. Nothing needs much thought lyrically, as Jahron just treads the same territory in almost identical ways that the Weeknd does. It’s just this b***h, that dark skin chick with the light skin crew and the N word more times than you can imagine. This easily exemplifies the reason why R&B music hasn’t progressed very much over the last few years. Unfortunately, there are still people who just cannot string a song together without avoiding the same subjects that are avoided by others who are trying to break new ground within the genre. PartyNextDoor is one of the prime examples. The production fails to inspire any hope in Drake’s new protégé. Most of it surrounds itself with the trap and hip-hop production that seems to dominate R&B radio format currently. Some of it may be slightly more enjoyable for a fleeting moment, like the well-oiled horn on “Her Way” or the dreamy synths on the opening track, but it is ultimately underwhelming. However, the most annoying thing about this album’s production is that there is this obsession with abruptly stopping the current song when it ends, rather than find a smarter way to end the song (hello, haven’t you heard of fade out?) It fascinates me that someone must have thought it would make the album sound more alternative.
Overall, this album is wonderful at proving one thing: it’s a whole lot easier to get a record today than it was at least 20 years ago. I must say that Drake is to blame as much for this record as Jahron. If Drake really wants to live out his ultimate dream and sign a talented singer with an alternative edge, what he should do is create an album that features him primarily singing, because he cannot find talent that is worthy of his time or money. PartyNextDoor isn’t the album you play when you’re happy, in the club, depressed, at home on a rainy day or in a car. You just don’t play it at all. It bears all the hallmarks of a truly terrible mess, but I’m sure PartyNextDoor Two will have its fans. My only question is, if this is what he’s brought out this time around, how much lower can you go?