Print Music Editor Bryony Gooch reviews Chance the Rapper’s latest album
Picture this: Chance the Rapper has been talking to you for over an hour. He is enthusiastically delivering his latest hot take: Marriage is Good.
Did I do it right? The joke that everyone has been making since Chance the Rapper’s album came out? Pointing out that his new album is so obsessed with his own marriage that he comes across reminiscent to one of the “Smug Married” couples so candidly imagined in Bridget Jones’s Diary?
It goes without saying that, while receiving some popular reviews among critics, Chance the Rapper’s debut album (following 3 mixtapes) is his least popular to date. From early on in his discography, Chance gave the impression of a refreshingly informal and earnest musician with an apparent disdain for record label constraints. Yet the pre-release publicity of The Big Day has arguably brought this into question. With its disappointing listening party “sponsored and hosted” by Spotify, where it was announced that the album would not actually be released and, therefore, only one new song was played, to Chance’s own attitude towards his fans. There have been numerous red flags suggesting that this upcoming album would not meet fans’ expectations.
A braggadocious, surface-level look into his lavish lifestyle
But I don’t think that Chance’s well-meaning ode to marriage is the worst thing about The Big Day. After all, there is nothing wrong with anyone celebrating their loved ones, and his wedding day is clearly a really important moment for him. The issue is, it is so clear that he has nothing interesting to say about marriage. But worse than that – he has nothing captivating to say generally, and is completely unaware of this.
The tracklist on its own is overwhelming. Ed Sheeran’s recent collaborative effort looked (and sounded) a complete mess, but the entire premise of it was collaborative and he was at least honest about this. Out of The Big Day’s 22 songs, only 3 of them see Chance performing alone. Perhaps the dependence on other artists would be redeemable if Chance was spotlighting these other artists, but we have heard better from most, if not all, of these artists.
The introductory song ‘All Day Long’ very much sets the tone of the album; while quintessentially Chance in its gospel influence, it feels chaotically put together. The discordance between the song’s muted keys and Chance’s fast-pace yet irksome delivery over a trap-inflected beat feels overbearing. Furthermore, this album truly will take “all day long” to listen to, as despite being 1 hour and 17 minutes (22 songs long!), it is not something that can be consumed in one sitting.
‘Hot Shower’ is stripped to a trap-beat which allows for an unforgiving showcase of what is perhaps Chance the Rapper’s worst delivery in his career. A braggadocious, surface-level look into his lavish lifestyle, Chance’s flow is more reminiscent of joke rap battles on YouTube than anything you’d actually choose to listen to. Chance’s verse, especially where he’s riffing on the word ‘dude’, is exceptionally grating. DaBaby’s verse is the track’s only redeeming quality, as MadeinTYO’s flow copies Chance’s own uninventive contribution. To conclude: ‘Hot Shower’? More like ‘Hot Mess’ featuring DaBaby.
it lacks what fans love about Chance the Rapper: his authenticity and self-awareness
The aim of ‘We Go High’, as a testament of the time when he split up from his current wife, is well-meaning (I think this can generally be said about Chance’s general attempt to make 22 songs about his marriage – that it is, in theory, sweet. But in practise it’s quite overbearing). But if Chance is trying to emulate the same multi-faceted bars that you can find in his contributions to tracks like ‘Ultralight Beam’ or SZA’s ‘Child’s Play’, or even his own ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’ and ‘Same Drugs’, he fails terribly. Chance claimed in an interview with Zane Lowe that his third verse on this track is the best he has ever written, but I’m not sure what he finds laudable about the line “We give the glory to You, God/ One livin’ true God, He make us booyah”.
The title track is similarly disappointing as Chance can only muster to point out that ‘oh my God this is the greatest day of my life’ throughout the track. The song appears to have no development past this sentiment, but 2 minutes in Francis and the Lights start howling over the top of the unremarkable instrumental. The quality of this vocal content is scratchy and unpleasant, and while you get the idea that this is somehow supposed to illustrate his point that “the only way to survive is to go crazy”; it realistically adds absolutely nothing to the song.
But then it goes without saying that this album adds nothing to his discography generally. The entire idea of an album dedicated to his wife is well-meaning and, contrary to the memes, far from the album’s biggest problem. The Big Day lacks what fans love about Chance the Rapper; his authenticity and self-awareness are what makes his uplifting music feel so appealing. Whether that was detailing his 10-day expulsion or his humble attitude in the presence of his hero Kanye West, Chance always seemed aware of the depth behind what was going on in front of him. Hopefully, he will find his mojo in time for his next release.