On Friday Aug. 3 Travis Scott released his highly-anticipated third studio album “Astroworld” to critical acclaim.
“Astroworld” has had one of the biggest build-ups in recent music history. Scott first announced the project on May 17, 2016. The two years’ worth of waiting and hype were worth it. “Astroworld” is Scott’s most cohesive and stylistically interesting album to date.
The album begins with “STARGAZING,” a track that embodies Scott’s signature laid-back sound and sets the tone for the rest of the album. While the melodic line, heavy bass and tasteful use of AutoTune are all Travis Scott trademarks, “STARGAZING” is more polished than songs off of his previous albums. “Astroworld” reveals an elevated version of the artist.
Over halfway through “STARGAZING” there’s an abrupt beat and flow switch. This change-up is characteristic of many of the tracks on “Astroworld.” The album is the first in which Scott continuously plays with tempo and timing. “SICKO MODE,” featuring Drake, is another notable track on the album that has many beat and flow switches, from hard to soft and back. The switches are sudden and agitated but make for interesting listening. “SICKO MODE” has the potential to be a radio hit, especially with Drake’s impressive feature.
Drake wasn’t the only artist to be featured on “Astroworld.” In fact, one of the album’s most impressive feats is the sheer number of artists that took part in its creation. Frank Ocean, Swae Lee, Kid Cudi, The Weeknd, Pharrell, 21 Savage, James Blake and Quavo are just some of the artists featured on the album. Whether or not you appreciate Scott’s flow and style, you have to give him credit: how often can an artist get both Stevie Wonder and Tame Impala to feature on the same album and actually make it sound cohesive and intentional?
One of the most successful collaborations on the album is between Scott and The Weeknd. The Weeknd and Scott team up on both “SKELETONS” (which also features Tame Impala and Pharrell) and “WAKE UP,” the latter of which is sure to be a bona fide hit. “SKELETONS” is a shorter song and comes across as a prelude to “WAKE UP.” As a song, “SKELETONS” doesn’t stand on its own, but the beauty of the album is that it doesn’t have to.
“WAKE UP” is a well-constructed track with a catchy melodic line and strong verses from both The Weeknd and Scott, who effortlessly switch off between the chorus and verses. This track segues into “5% TINT,” a more eerie-sounding song that utilizes a classic piano riff, Scott’s signature rapping style and AutoTuned ad libs. The intentional transitions (and lack thereof) between songs show how Scott didn’t leave anything up to chance on “Astroworld.”
21 Savage and Swae Lee also have memorable features on the tracks “NC-17” and “R.I.P SCREW,” respectively. “NC-17” seems to be another radio hit in the making with all of the necessary ingredients: a driving beat, catchy chorus and a well-executed feature. “R.I.P SCREW” is a slower, more mellow song that pays homage DJ Screw, the famous Houston-based DJ that greatly influenced Scott. Swae Lee’s feature on the track is a perfectly eerie addition.
Another notable track on the album is “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD,” which features James Blake, Kid Cudi and Stevie Wonder. This song has the same mellow vibe as “R.I.P SCREW” and “CAN’T SAY” (a later track featuring Don Toliver) and showcases a slightly uncanny albeit incredibly catchy chorus. “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” embodies Scott’s mellow sound and artistic vision.
If “Astroworld” is modeled like a roller coaster from Scott’s beloved closed-down childhood Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston, TX, then the last two tracks on the album represent the roller coaster coming to a stop and the amusement park shutting down. Both “HOUSTONFORNICATION” and “COFFEE BEAN” are fine songs but seem to lack the magic that makes all of the other tracks on the album pop.
Scott’s ability to play around with tempo, length and transition makes listening to “Astroworld” an entire experience, much like riding an old AstroWorld roller coaster with dips and curves, fast downhills and slow spirals. In an interview with GQ, Scott described the inspiration behind the album’s name:
“They tore down AstroWorld to build more apartment space. That’s what it’s going to sound like, like taking an amusement park away from kids. We want it back. We want the building back. That’s why I’m doing it. It took the fun out of the city.”
Scott most certainly accomplishes what he set out to do. While there are many fun, upbeat parts of the album, there’s also a nearly hidden melancholy that underlies every verse, beat and flow. It’s Scott’s incredible versatility and unique ear that is highlighted most on “Astroworld.”
Although the album loses a bit of steam by the end, there’s no doubt that this is Scott’s most ambitious and well-executed album to date. What’s so impressive about “Astroworld” is that although it’s artistically and conceptually rigorous, it’s still fun to listen to. Even though the real AstroWorld is long gone, taking a ride on Scott’s “Astroworld” makes up for it completely.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Lucie Turkel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.