Who knew heartbreak could sound so … happy? This is certainly the case for Jaden Smith’s newest album, “CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3.”
Released this past Friday, Aug. 28, the title of the album doesn’t lie: It really is a cool album. As usual, Smith (known mononymously as “Jaden” for his musical career) delivered an album that was part emo boy autotune, part flawlessly on-beat rap and, this time, part sunny pop. Is there anything he can’t do?
As with all of his albums, the visuals tell a lot. The cover of “CTV3,” with its arcing rainbow, psychedelic-colored car and fields of colorful flowers, certainly portrays a nostalgic 1970s vibe. This same flower child feeling holds true for the tracks on the album, which adds a new sound to Jaden’s repertoire. Yet the triple threat rapper-singer-songwriter is still able to hold true to his unique musicality while incorporating this sunnier aspect to his work.
The very first track on the album, “Circa 2015,” has a certain cinematic element to it, mostly due to the orchestral beats in the background. Despite the heavy lyrical content about endings (Jaden lamenting about a lost love) the track sounds like the beginning of something — most likely the beginning of the “chain smoking down memory lane” that Jaden is about to do for the remainder of the album (as he so eloquently phrases it in the track “In the Hills”).
“Falling for You,” the second track on the album, is a deceptively upbeat rhythmic track with a doo wop type beat juxtaposed with some pretty intense (yet punny) lyrics. This is especially prevalent in the line, “I think I’m falling for you/If you don’t call me I’ll jump off the roof.” And most important, “Falling for You” has a feature that reunites two artists we haven’t heard together since 2010. You guessed it: Justin Bieber is featured on this track, and the pair’s vocals really complement each other. Is it too late to ask for a remix of “Never Say Never”?
“LUCY!” is another upbeat song on the album with strong hints of pop and surf rock — it sounds like what would occur if The Beach Boys decided to make a lyrical rap track. And perhaps my opinion is slightly biased, as I get to hear Jaden say my name over and over again on the track, but I do think it’s one of the most successful songs on the album.
Perhaps the biggest stand-out, staunchly pop track on “CTV3” is “Cabin Fever.” Released as a single earlier this summer along with an aesthetically pleasing music video, this track has what it takes to make it onto the pop charts without compromising Jaden’s artistic style. It’s pop his way — in a similar manner to Tyler, the Creator’s “EARFQUAKE.”
Prefer to be more mellow? Don’t worry — this album has got that, too. “Everything,” one of my personal favorites, shows off Jaden’s sweet, autotuned vocals along with his classic rap flow atop a musical beat. “In the Hills,” another favorite, starts off with dreamy melodics before switching to a plucky, uptempo beat that he raps over before going back to the original melodic line. The range of “In the Hills” represents the entire album and the ease with which Jaden is able to switch between these differing genres and melodies.
“Drops of Sun,” “Sunburnt” and “Deep End” all have hints of modern psychedelic rock (think Tame Impala) in addition to classic Jaden elements. “Photograph” is a love ballad. “Boys and Girls” is a poppy anthem of self-love and the power of youth. No matter what kind of music you like, “CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3” is sure to have something for you.
Yet despite the wide range of genres and melodies, the album is still a cohesive piece: Be sure to listen to it in order for your first go-around. And while Jaden has always been a master of shapeshifting genre, there’s no doubt that this is his most ambitious and successful work yet. Both nostalgic and fresh, lyrical and rhythmic, the “cool” in “CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3” is certainly warranted. Here’s to another notch on Jaden’s musical belt.