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UTOPIA: Blockbuster that Overshadows Travis Scott’s Past

by Harry Guo

Love him or hate him, Jacques Bermon Webster II, better known as Travis Scott, is not only one of the biggest rap artists of our generation, but he’s also one of the biggest brands, collaborating with large corporations like McDonald’s. However, unlike McDonald’s, it’s hard to function as both a brand and a person. While McDonald’s is one of the most exploitative corporations on the planet, they’re not a person; they’re just a logo. So any controversies that go their way get spread out amongst their faceless organization. But for Scott, all the anger and blame can be directed at him, and this was apparent after the disaster at the Astroworld Festival, where a crowd crush claimed the lives of ten people. With all this being said, Scott did his best to make us forget about the past with this ambitious, in-your-face project that does lack substance at times.

Evident in the opening track, “HYAENA”, the lead vocal mutated with off-key effects, and the strange melodies sung distract us from the uninteresting message they’re trying to relay. Even if there wasn’t a lot lyric-wise, the synth break and bombastic beat make this opener feel like a trailer to an action movie. On this track, along with the theatrical “MODERN JAM” and the cinematic “SIRENS”, Scott’s sub-par lyrics are overshadowed by the catchy and grand production. With lyrics like “Now I got your attention / You never leavin’”, it’s clear that Scott was going for a spectacle, even though it might be an empty one.

Scott’s lack of lyricism and off-putting lyrics may turn off many old-school hip-hop heads, but they are what define his musicianship. “TELEKINESIS” features an instrumental that sounds heavenly at best and intergalactic at worst with its futuristic beat and moody vibe. SZA’s closing verse on the track is a show-stopping performance, and it’s moments like this that make the album memorable among all of its shiny, but hollow, extravaganza.

Even with many superficialities, Scott is able to show off his introspective side on melancholy tracks like “MY EYES”. The muffled, ambient synth passages and auto-tuned vocals are angelic; they create the most tender track that Scott has ever put together. He explores complex themes of material wealth and personal struggles, relating his desire for childhood again to the regret of not saving a nine-year-old who died at his concert.

With off-key vocal effects just a track next to euphoric synths, this project was the best comeback that Scott could’ve made after his disaster at Astroworld. Yes, his lyrics might not mean anything at times, but Travis Scott’s luxurious production and show-stopping moments that live in the listener’s head rent-free ultimately triumph in the blockbuster that is UTOPIA.

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