SHIFTER’s Kevin Bourne says “New Blue Sun” is musical storytelling at its finest in his Andre 3000 album review.
Hip-hop fans were excited, then confused when Andre 3000 recently announced the release of his debut solo album New Blue Sun…which would include no rapping, just flute solos. Yup, that’s right. With Speakerboxx/The Love Below becoming the bestselling hip-hop album of all time, we could’ve done with a new hip-hop album from 3 Stacks. But while fans, including myself, may have been disappointed by the initial news, we have no choice but to respect it. This is Andre 3000 we’re talking about. He’s an artist’s artist who could never be categorized or placed neatly in any box.
Now, right out the gate, let’s establish that this album isn’t for everyone. It’s an experimental album, almost sonically abstract which can be hard for some listeners to understand. It’s an acquired taste. It demands that the listener be open-minded, curious and adventurous. Where hip-hop is structured and formulaic (although Outkast deviated from conventional hip-hop), with the style of music displayed on New Blue Sun you never know where the song is going next.
The song titles are almost as abstract as the songs themselves with names like the apologetic, “I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time”.
Although the word “lush” is often overused, there’s no other way to describe the accompanying instrumentation on this song. It’s sounds like Spring time with flowers in bloom, trees starting to grow, and animals coming out of hibernation. Wait. Is Andre 3000 giving us storytelling with his flute? Sounds like it. Sonically, he uses pulsating notes, range and interesting runs to communicate new life and hope.
“That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t Was Wild”, the standout song on the album, sounds tribal, but at the same time something out of a kung-fu movie. It has cinematic qualities to it, painting the picture of a panther on the prowl.
Skipping to the closing song, “Dreams Once Buried Beneath The Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens”, there’s serene yet cinematic qualities to it. It’s a calming close to the project after such a grand and, at times, confusing experience.
Overall, this album is an immersive experience that listeners need to approach with an open mind. This is musical storytelling at its finest as Andre 3000 ventures into a new form of storytelling through an instrument instead of his pen and voice. It also represents the maturing of hip-hop as one of the GOATS spreads his wings and goes into a completely different direction. It’s a reminder that while we’ve grown to love these artists as fans, their art and expression belong to them and not us.
Kevin Bourne is SHIFTER’s Toronto-based editor and Senior Entertainment Reporter focusing on Black music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.