The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

February Music Review: slowthai and HAIM(feat. Taylor Swift)

TYRON – slowthai

After releasing several singles leading up to this album throughout the latter half of 2020 and early 2021, British rapper slowthai released his self-named sophomore album “TYRON.”

The album is divided into two discs that represent the two sides of slowthai, with his strong British accent and character-filled verse-spitting as the consistent link between the two.

The first disc talks about his status as a rising figure in the music industry, influence and unbelievable swagger as he boasts his money and sexual prowess. The second disc discusses slowthai on a more personal level, with lyrics about self-doubt, regret and other depressing topics.

The two discs aren’t just topically different but are also sonically and stylistically different. The titles for all the first disc’s tracks are in all caps, which is fitting for the its intensity. Tracks on the first disc include “45 SMOKE,” “MAZZA” and “VEX” and feature hard-hitting, aggressive beats. The second disc’s tracks are in all lowercase, mirroring the vulnerability that slowthai shows on this half of the album. Tracks here include “feel away,” “i tried” and “push,” which include mellower melodies to reflect the more somber nature of the disc.

Throughout the album, slowthai shows his strengths through the catchy production and features on his tracks. Looking at the first disc, equally dividing the track “MAZZA” between American rapper A$AP Rocky and slowthai made the song insanely enjoyable. Often, when one artist features another on their track, the featured artist can be underutilized to simply one verse, and it hurts the song as a whole. “MAZZA” breaks this musical curse by having a well-executed balance between the two rappers.

Other stand-outs on the first disc include “CANCELLED” featuring Skepta, who delivers harsh verses about how him and slowthai simply have too much clout to be cancelled, and “VEX,” which is about slowthai’s unbridled anger.

As the first disc closes out with “DEAD” and “PLAY WITH FIRE,” the beats begin to get softer and hints of the second disc emerge throughout the production and lyricism, especially in “PLAY WITH FIRE.” Although the album flows better with these songs acting as transitions into the second disc, keeping the songs as transitions weakens the division between the two album halves and hurts the first half because of it.

In general, the second disc is better than the first. The second disc is more sonically and lyrically consistent, with the fusion of mellower beats and slowthai’s aggressive rap style and with concentrated lyrics on slowthai’s introspection.

The first song on the second disc is “i tried,” with lyrics about slowthai’s struggle for self-acceptance and an edited instrumental from Trey Gruber’s 2019 song of the same name. This introduction to the second disc already shows the high contrast in subject matters and tone to the first disc and sets up slowthai’s second act.

slowthai’s collaborative tracks on the second disc like “terms” featuring Dominic Fike and Denzel Curry, “push” with Deb Never and “feel away” with James Blake and Mount Kimbie are some of the best songs on the entire album. “nhs,” named after the British National Health Service to honor their role in the struggle against COVID-19, is a beautiful track about finding meaning in life and appreciation for one’s surroundings.

“TYRON” explores slowthai, from his grungy exterior to underneath his shell. Tracks where slowthai boasts on the first disc are contrasted with slowthai’s ability to let his guard down on the second. Although the second disc surpasses the first, the entire project is stellar. Immersing into these two sides of slowthai has been an amazing experience, and hopefully he’ll release more high caliber content like what is seen on “TYRON” sooner rather than later.

“Gasoline” (feat. Taylor Swift) – HAIM, Taylor Swift

After both having extremely successful album releases in 2020 and collaborating on the song “no body, no crime” from Swift’s album “evermore,” pop star Taylor Swift joined the band HAIM on their latest single “Gasoline.” The single was released Feb. 18, but the song was initially released as part of HAIM’s critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated album “Women in Music Pt. III” back in summer 2020.

“Gasoline” features an almost liquid-sounding, groovy guitar melody, soft bass line and smooth percussion. It’s a mesmerizing and relaxing song with playful lyrics about women’s sexual empowerment in a relationship.

There aren’t many differences between the two versions of “Gasoline” besides the inclusion of Taylor Swift and small lyric changes during the bridge. However, these small changes are well-appreciated. The integration of Swift into the second verse, second chorus and bridge almost make it seem like she’s a HAIM member herself, and the notorious character of Swift’s voice adds a new fun flair to the song.

It’s hard to listen to the song and not be wanting more, however. The harmonization throughout the track along with the infectious guitar create a bliss-filled listening experience, but the experience feels short-lived due to the song’s length and repetitive nature. Also, at times, it doesn’t feel like the song is saying much. One can appreciate the story that the lyrics tell, but the lyrics still feel empty in a way that the instrumental, as good as it is, can’t compensate for.

Overall, HAIM and Taylor Swift’s new collaboration on “Gasoline” deserves a listen (or three), and hopefully they will continue to make music together as they have been over the past couple of months.