Travis Scott is one of most talented, visionary and innovative artists of this generation says Kevin Bourne in his UTOPIA album review.
It’s been a rough few years for Travis Scott after the fallout surrounding the Astroworld festival, but with the incident in the rearview mirror as much as it can be, Scott is back with his highly anticipated album UTOPIA, a follow up to the critically acclaimed Astroworld (2018).
First off, let me say, this album isn’t an easy one to review. As you could expect from a Travis Scott album, there’s a lot going on, in a good way. From the beat changes and different tempos, to the innovative production and cinematic soundscapes, it’s generally hard to categorize or explain his style. Scott creates worlds. He did that on Astroworld and he does it again on Utopia.
The album is supported by two singles―“K-POP” featuring Bad Bunny and The Weeknd and “DELRESTO (ECHOES)” featuring Beyonce, and is a concept record that was accompanied by a film, Circus Maximus, released the day before the album. The ever creative Scott released four alternate cover arts for the project which he shared on his Instagram profile in the days leading up to its release.
Aside from the previously mentioned collab with the Queen Bey, the album boasts an impressive list of features, including KayCyy, Teezo Touchdown, Bon Iver, Yves Tumor, Sampha, Drake, Playboi Carti, Sheck Wes, Beyoncé, Rob49, 21 Savage, the Weeknd, Yung Lean, Young Thug, James Blake, Westside Gunn, Kid Cudi, Bad Bunny, Future, and SZA. Aside from Scott and James Blake, the album boasts an equally impressive list of producers, including WondaGurl, Kanye West, Wheezy, Pharrell Williams, Boi-1da, Vinylz, Tay Keith, the Alchemist, and Metro Boomin, among others.
Scott has built a reputation for pushing creative boundaries, blending hip-hop, trap, psychedelic, and experimental sounds. While at first listen, UTOPIA may not seem that different from Astroworld sonically speaking, when you look under the hood you can hear a greater sense confidence from Scott, perhaps from having gone through hell and come out on the other side, or having moved on from his Grand Hustle Records deal as it ended before the album’s release.
There are too many standout moments to mention, but let’s take a look at some.
The project opens with “HYAENA” featuring Scott’s distorted vocals over a kind of reimagined boom bap production. “MODERN JAM” features a stripped down and innovative hip-hop beat that we’ve never heard before. There’s the airy and ethereal “MY EYES” that may leave listeners in an elevated, emotional state. “GOD’S COUNTRY”, which would’ve been at home on Astroworld, features distorted vocals in different ranges over a laid bad production. A raspy-voiced Drake makes an appearance on “MELTDOWN” as he declares war on Pusha T and Pharrell. Scott and Westside Gunn team up on “LOST FOREVER” blending of two distinct sounds that may have delivered the best song on the album. Rivalling this track for best song on the album, according to this writer, is “I KNOW ?” which includes Scott floating on a simple laid back beat with bounce, proving less is more. And then there’s the aforementioned Beyonce feature on “DELRESTO (ECHOES)” which is a good lock since Beyonce doesn’t lend her voice to features often, and “K-POP” with Bad Bunny and The Weeknd; two of the biggest artists in the world. This is a huge, blockbuster collab that, on paper, is one of the biggest songs of the year.
Travis Scott has always defied convention and formulas, and consistently delivers solid and well thought out albums in a area of microwave two-minute singles and EPs. With UTOPIA, he has delivered a work of art, a masterpiece, as he separates himself as one of most talented, visionary and innovative artists of this generation.