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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Juice WRLD - Goodbye & Good Riddance Practice Music Album Reviews

Juice WRLD - Goodbye & Good Riddance Practice Music Album Reviews

Juice WRLD’s emo-rap debut is an adolescent breakup record that is equal parts endearing and grating.

The 19-year-old Illinois rapper Jared Higgins (aka Juice WRLD) arrived suddenly and fully formed on the Billboard charts over the last few months. First it was with a song called “All Girls Are the Same,” which is obviously bratty and stupid, but also sneakily catchy and endearing in the way it casts Higgins as a bit of a heartbroken doofus. “Tell me what's the secret to love, I don't get it,” he sings in a monotonous drone. Another single quickly followed, and Juice WRLD’s first official album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, fell out of the sky just months after news he’d signed a deal with a major label. As a result, Higgins feels a bit like a ringer who has been hidden from view and unveiled all at once.

It’s possible Higgins has enjoyed such a rapid climb due to the familiarity of the emo-rap he trades in. But that same familiarity can nag at the ear and force comparisons. He can sound warbly and frustrated—one part Lil Yachty and one part Post Malone—or depressed and histrionic, like Lil Peep and nothing,nowhere. To be sure, Higgins has latched onto this wave of emo-rap in both sound and lyrics, and Interscope has invested in his timely recipe of weepy trap because he’s such a convincing aggregate of the sound. If there’s an urgency to Goodbye & Good Riddance it’s not so much what is inside the album, but the timing of its delivery.

Goodbye & Good Riddance is an adolescent breakup record, and it’s accordingly cathartic, petty, and clumsy in its emotional processing. It’s as hard to like Higgins as it is easy to pity him. The album cover signals some of this schtick with a campy anime drawing of Higgins doing a burnout, sticking his middle finger out the window, and literally leaving a woman in his dust. It’s a small-minded, juvenile gesture that fits hand-in-hand with that lead single and the general sulkiness of the rest of the album. Higgins sings at a persistent “you” throughout Goodbye & Good Riddance, but he’s clearly self-obsessed in a moment of torment, paralyzed by heartbreak but not to the point that he can’t crawl in front of a mirror to glance at himself fall apart. For Higgins, heartbreak is performative and despondency is chic.

Thankfully, there’s an emotional immediacy to the music and Higgins is doing more than just spinning his wheels. He sings often in weepy groans and emo snarls that match the blunt rawness of his lyrics, even if he’s in the habit of telling instead of showing his feelings (“Who am I kiddin’?/All this jealousy and agony that I sit in”). He also often grimaces through vapid clunkers like “I take prescriptions to make me feel a-okay/I know it's all in my head.” These aren’t lyrics that can be delivered with tact, and Higgins hams it up at every turn. What he lacks in narrative, he makes up for in moody hooks, to the point that the nursery-rhyme simplicity of his singsong couplets can wash away the groaning melodrama of a line like, “I’m on the drugs way too much” and needle it into your skull. The tragic upshot of the album—love sucks, drugs help—is as productively communicated by song titles like “I”ll Be Fine,” “Scared of Love,” and “Hurt Me” as the lyrics inside of them.

The more pressing accomplishment on Goodbye & Good Riddance is that Higgins has crystallized the sonic footprint of this emo-rap moment. The production is handled mostly by Higgins’ frequent collaborator Nick Mira, who encourages the maudlin effect of Higgins’ writing with mawkish synth atmospheres and fidgeting trap snares; the same current runs through the whole tracklist like a wet blanket.

Other than the cringey voicemail skits peppered throughout, Higgins stands alone on the album without a single feature to accompany him. Even if his draw is relatability, it could have scanned awkward to hear Higgins share this space with anyone else. Throughout Goodbye & Good Riddance, his heart-on-his-sleeve coping sounds both ingratiating and grating. In that way at least, he’s bottled up sad sap adolescence remarkably well.

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