Mother-fuh… Just when we thought it was safe to return to the 2020 series after last time’s dismal effort by Lil Baby, we have Lil Uzi Vert. Without hearing a single second of this guy’s music or voice, I’m already thinking it’s going to be crap based on his name alone. But let’s give him the due time and attention we give to everyone in this series, and who knows, surely it can’t be as bad as My Turn was. Right?
Even if it is better, I still anticipate cheap beats, lyrics about money, counting money, spending money, misogyny, coming from the streets, and more autotune. Such is the way with modern Hip Hop. That’s fine, but at least make it good. Does the album art give any more hints about what the music will be like? It looks futuristic, three people (or two people, and one disco-ball headed entity) standing on what appears to be a moon or an asteroid, staring at what appears to be Earth while an old school Space Saucer hovers in the distance. So… a little bit weird? Something Sci Fi or futuristic sounding? Leaving? Distance? Or is it just cool artwork with no meaning? By the time you read the next paragraph, I will have listened to the album multiple times.
It’s a better album than My Turn, lets get that out of the way. It suffers from the same flaws as Lil Baby’s stain – auto-tuned vocals, repetitive lyrics and lyrical themes which barely go beyond sex and money, but it improves in both areas and is significantly stronger in other key aspects. It’s still not very good, and it’s not something I’ll ever listen to again, but at least it’s not as obnoxiously awful.
I’d like to continue with the positives but it seems easier to continue scooping the tripe first. The name – we know how I feel about having ‘Lil’ in your name. Why not just call yourself Uzi Vert? A perfectly good name. The album has 18 tracks – way too many, but as previously discussed that’s what people do these days. The more songs on an album, the more streams it gets. It stifles creativity and encourages repetition. It encourages putting crap on an album which otherwise would have been left aside. But that’s just another example of the album fading as an art form. Although, as a positive, this album does feel like a coherent whole thanks to the production allowing one song to flow into the next and the little skits throughout.
Still, even as none of the songs are over the four minute mark, 18 songs is a lot. There is variety in the music, but not enough to keep from it feeling like a slog in a single sitting. A 14 or 15 song album would have likely given me a more positive outlook – throw out a few of the lesser tracks and you’d have an album I could see myself popping on in the car. I begrudgingly accept that most listeners will not be listening to this in a single sitting though, so this may not be a criticism depending on how you consume music.
The autotune is front and centre and Uzi often sounds like he raps, straining from the back of his throat. Like he’s taking an unending series of Lil Dumps. The breathless delivery is impressive, but when he’s going on one of his faster runs the lyrics often descend into repetition – the same lyric repeated and zero variance in the delivery, no change in tone or emotion. Which suggests he likely said it once in the studio and it was then copied and pasted. It probably sounds better live, if he can even do it live.
It’s unfortunate, because the album is peppered with moments which reveal a stronger voice; the little skits, the moments when he does allow himself to scramble free from the overly produced, digitized vocals which seem to populate the charts these days. Those moments show someone which a flair for humour and performance, but for 90% of the delivery this is blocked. As much as the vocal delivery is held on a leash and any imagination and individuality is dragged down, the lyrics allow this to escape. The humour is mostly juvenile, but I’m a juvenile kind of guy who isn’t averse to the odd chuckle over sexual double or single entendres. I get the impression that the guy wants to make a full blown comedy album, but either lacks the talent and scope to do it, or that he’s too afraid/been advised not to do it. You can be funny without talking about sex and the dude needs to find a way to write about other shit. But maybe this is all his life is – being rich and having sex. Eventually that gets incredibly dull for the listener.
I may not be giving the album enough credit when it comes to musical variety. Every song does have a different hook, whether that be a variance in the beat or a nod to a particular instrumental style. The impression that the album lacks variance comes from a mixture of the repetitive nature of the vocals, the similar lengths of each track, and the similar pacing and structure of each song. This is where the improvements could be made and to truly push the album into B grade territory. There’s good stuff here, but it’s prevented from coming out or restrained by reliance on cliche and marketability. It’s two steps forwards/one and a half steps backwards music while Lil Baby’s was like walking backwards into a volcano. A volcano of shit.
While songs do vary, none of them stand out. I could just as easily pick any of them as a single, or none of them. Each song seems designed to groove to – there’s nothing to chill to, nothing to completely bust out to. The vibe is one note and overall there is no peak, no trough. It cruises along, never going about 20 mph, like one of those chavs who circle beachside towns in their mutant Toyotas, except it doesn’t even have the decency to obnoxiously rev or impatiently overtake an elderly driver. It just rolls slowly along, doing little to draw attention to itself.
With that said, I struggle to recommend any individual songs as highlights, or to even recall which one is which after several listens. There’s the one with the funny bit. There’s the one with the sci-fi stuff. There’s the ones with a choir style backing. There’s the Backstreet Boys one. There’s the one that goes BUHLISSYBUHLISSYBUHLISSYBUHLISSY. There’s positives in how coherent it is, how connected the album is, and how it could be argued as being in the style of a concept album, but there’s negatives in there not being a stand-out and in there simply being too much of it. The greatest positive I can give the album is that at no point did it piss me off, have me skipping songs, or have me punching the stop button due it being crap. Like a certain other recently reviewed album by one of the Lil clan.
Sales: 4. We’ll keep it a 4 because it’s so difficult assessing what sales even are these days. It’s platinum in the US, but has done significantly less well everywhere else. Few people outside of the US gave a toss.
Chart: 4. It stayed at the top of the charts for a couple of weeks in the US. It also topped the charts in Australia and Canada.
Critical: 4. Mostly positive, made many end of year lists.
Originality: 3. Not my area of expertise – to me there seems to have been an endless series of rap albums mixing Trap and synth-wave and other shite. But other critics have commented on it breaking new ground, so who am I to argue.
Influence: 3. I guess. It sold lots. Plenty of kids will hear it and dream about being rich and ‘playing with kittens’.
Musical Ability: 3. Sure.
Lyrics: 3. Thematically, there’s a limited range. But stylistically, a fair amount of flair, personality, and humour.
Melody: 3. A solid set of semi-decent hooks and moments, frequently brought down by greater moments of repetition and monotony.
Emotion: 3. I’m being generous with the 3, it’s maybe a 2. But I rate humour highly, so any album which clearly is trying to be funny, and sometimes succeeding, gets an extra half-point from me.
Lastibility: 3. People who like this sort of thing will surely keep listening.
Vocals: 3. They’re fine. Nothing special, sounds like every other person who performs in this style.
Coherence: 3. Holds together nicely with some songs flowing neatly into the next, and the little skits suggesting a running story.
Mood: 3. Fun, stick it on with friends. Not much else.
Production: 4. Very solid, very sci-fi oriented with samples in the same vein. As always, the digital beats never pack enough punch.
Effort: 3. No comment. Except that one.
Relationship: 2. It’s the humour which connects me. Not much else in the lyrics or music I can relate to.
Genre Relation: 4. For better or worse, it sounds like everything else.
Authenticity: 3. Sure. Though at some point all this crap about shagging a thousand women a week and buying Lambos loses its credibility.
Personal: 3. Do I go 2 or 3? It seems odd to say I’ll never listen to an album that I’ve rated a 3 again, but I won’t. It’s a very low 3. I can appreciate it for what it is and understand that others will love it, but within a week of this being posted I doubt I’ll be able to recall a single melody. Still, I mostly enjoyed it while listening.
Miscellaneous: 2. Decent artwork. A double album version was released a week later. Not enough to get a 3.
A decent overall score considering what other albums have been getting. Let us know in the comments what you think of Eternal Atake!