Internet sensation Kid Cudi’s Man On the Moon dropped today. After months of dominating ClearChannel radio with his track “Day N Nite,” (and its various remixes, which made it no less intolerable to hear every five minutes), Kid has the respect of both hip hop’s most majorest stars (Kanye) as well as some indie cred (MGMT worked on a track). Music magazines, clingers to the bygone pre-mp3 era, will no doubt salivate about Kid’s crossroads musical identity; he is a true artiste, they will say, seamlessly traversing the terrains of electro, pop (especially 90’s and foreign pop sounds), rock (again, lotsa 90’s pop-rock here), and hip hop, among others. His production team includes Ratatat and Kanye West! And this will be perceived as awesome!
Other critics will note that this album succeeds on its terms, as, like one of its strongest influences, 808s and Heartbreak, it is an effective auditory study in the atmosphere of isolation and sadness.
What do I think of this dude? I kind of don’t want to stomp on him, because he’s from Cleveland, wrote “Day N Nite” in his bedroom 2 or 3 years ago, got famous on the Internet, blah blah. But I mean, pfork really had a point when they said: “You may not have picked up on this, despite him signaling it desperately from thousands of yards away, but Kid Cudi is a sensitive soul, wrestling with the sorts of inner torments that you or I could only imagine.”
So though I won’t be the first person to note this, Kid’s sad confessionals are about as deep as my pockets the day before I get paid. Example: the echoing of dueling “no no nos” and “yeah yeah yeahs” on “Heart of a Lion.” OMG, is Cudi torn, or something? Can’t decide if no or yeah? I’ve been there.
Witness the song “Soundtrack 2 My Life.” He sings: I’ve got some issues that nobody can see/and all of these emotions are pouring over me. Granted, I sometimes have a hard time picking a verb for profound things I am trying to express, so I almost sympathize with the clumsiness of the verb in a line like, “emotions are pouring over me.” But really, I write these blog posts while I am sitting at work and working on deadline to boot, so I don’t have time to agonize over word choice. If I made a cd, by golly, I would agonize, with my tortured soul, about the best goddamn word to describe my pain.
But Anna, one might say to me, you are a big fan of 808s and Heartbreak, which often lacks emotional articulation. For instance, one song features the line “How could you be so heartless?” repeated ad nauseum. Well, detractor, let me tell you, that Kanye’s rhymes strike on the elemental, truthful side of basic, as opposed to the trite and surfacey side of basic. He is grief-stricken and makes up for ineloquence with sincerity, and, of course, heartbreak! Many times on Cudi’s album, notably in “Soundtrack 2 My Life,” “Day N Nite,” the opener “In My Dreams,” etc, Cudi layers his adolescent poetics with a slathering of self-pity–not a novel or interesting combination, but one that reminds us all of time spent writing in fuzzy-flowered journals purchased at a suburban Claire’s in 1998. I don’t suppose Cudi got his journal at Claire’s though. Prolly went to Hot Topic.
However, the latter half of the album holds some real gems, I mean, if you like 2008 Kanye West as much as I do. “Sky Might Fall,” is a Kanye produced track, with scratchy beats and an organ, dredged from the pile of tape lying in Kanye’s Bentley; it’s almost certainly 808s lost track. “Cudi Zone,” a hilarious song name that reminds me of ‘cuddle zone,’ a place I go when I’m feeling sad, features “Robo-Cop” synths in an optimistic chord progression and the most skillful rhyme-delivery on the album. Then Cudi sings, and you swear it’s Chris Martin or the guy from TOTR. He’s actually a good singer! The busy production really propels this song, taking it from bridge to bridge like a soaring neo-romantic space ship, which is exactly what Cudi was going for.
The hi-lite of the album for me is Cudi’s Daft Punk rehash, “Enter Galactic.” I liked this song within the first second of hearing it. I thought, “Yes! Jamiroquoi!” in that it is a bopping, space age child of Steve Wonder. It features the soulful, understated, zen synths of what is perhaps DP’s greatest love song, “Something About Us.” Just ignore the Shatner sing-talking, and the neologism “angelesque,” and you will be absolutely charmed.
This album’s spaceophilia is fashionable, but something of it smells like 2007. Oh yeah! That’s because that was the year Kanye reinvented hip hop vocab with Graduation, and invigorated black music’s fascination with space.
Finally, it might be best to think of Cudi not as a revolutionary, but as a hyped-then-disappointment-inducing pseudo-indie genre-hopping artist in the vein of Santo/igold. Remember her? No? Oh. She was supposed to be the NEW M.I.A.!
We’ll have to wait for the NEW KANYE, but this guy’s pretty good for now. If Cudi can get away from wearing his influences on his sleeve, and um, record sleeve (see Kanye’s production cred), then we might really have something to indulge. Until then, Cudi’s got that whole indulgence thing covered.