The newest record from Swedish cloud rapper Yung Lean contains a diverse and moody tracklisting, but falters with vocal inconsistency.
By Gavin Majeski
As one of the first rappers to jump on the SoundCloud rap train, Jonatan Håstad, better known as Yung Lean, helped pave the way for one of the most predominant hip-hop trends of the 2010s. Utilizing spacey, atmospheric beats and emotional lyrics reflecting heartbreak and drug use, his fourth studio album, “Starz,” is no different.
“Starz” excels by blending the artist’s usual emo and cloud rap aesthetics with catchy hooks and choruses. The vast majority of the record contains consistent bop after bop, and even a few tracks that fit into a more straightforward hip-hop aesthetic, as seen by “Violence” and “Iceheart.” Tracks such as “Yayo,” “Outta My Head” and “Acid 7/11” are great low-key cuts that are only complimented more by the even more focused “Pikachu,” “Dogboy” and “Hellraiser.” “Pikachu” features unique synth leads, killer bass and self-aware lyrics on relationships that feel shallow because his significant other only knows the choruses to Håstad’s songs.
“Dog Boy” contains excellent high hat work and incredibly thick bass, while “Hellraiser” has the best vocal performance on the entire record. Though “Hellraiser” is a high point vocally, where the record truly falls flat is with the plethora of other songs that feature frequent odd autotuning/mixing, poor singing, or stale, repetitive flows from Håstad. The opening track to the record, “My Agenda,” is an aggressive and experimental opener, yet once we reach the chorus, the audience is hit with overblown production and poor mixing on the rapper’s voice.
“Boylife in EU” and “Butterfly Paralyzed” both suffer a similar fate by having decent production, but are hindered by more poor vocal performances on each chorus. The record ends on a high note with “Put Me in a Spell,” which, while unable to perfectly wrap up an inconsistent record, does contain the most unique instrumental on the album with a piano backing, plucky string guitars and gorgeous synth leads that show up in the last third of the track.
Yung Lean continues to hit listeners with quick, digestible bops on his newest record “Starz,” but needs to go back to the drawing board. If Håstad wants to convey the strong emotions he seems to so desperately want listeners to feel, his spotty vocals ought to be his number one prioritization moving forward.
Favorite Tracks: Yayo, Violence, Outta My Head, Dance in the Dark, Acid at 7/11, Starz, Hellraiser, Dogboy, Iceheart, Pikachu, Put Me in a Spell