After a year-long hiatus from music, Bryson Tiller is stepping back on the scene with the upcoming release of his highly-anticipated third studio album, Anniversary. The 27-year-old singer’s 2015 breakthrough album, TRAPSOUL, has aged like fine wine, with Tiller even dropping a Deluxe version of the lauded album last Friday— exactly one week before the release of Anniversary. The deluxe consisted of three additional songs, including a “Rambo (Last Blood)” remix ft. The Weeknd, “Self Righteous” and “Just Another Interlude.”
Some fans may have been disappointed to see the deluxe only contained three new tracks (and an outro in which Tiller thanked his fans for their support), but it would seem this announcement has muddled that feeling. The hopes for the Louisville crooner’s upcoming album remain high. Anniversary will be released on the five-year anniversary of TRAPSOUL, a seeming hint that the project will measure up to or even exceed the majesty of his first album. If all goes well, perhaps Anniversary will transcend TRAPSOUL as Tiller’s career-defining body of work.
Emerging from the shadows, Tiller has supplemented the month of September with back-to-back releases, starting with the single, “Inhale,” followed by “Always Forever” on the 21st, prior to the TRAPSOUL deluxe. Both tracks feature many of the nostalgic elements that made TRAPSOUL so successful, including Tiller’s signature sultry lyrics layered seamlessly over a bass-driven beat.
The singles were met with significantly better receptions than Tiller’s 2017 sophomore album, True To Self, to which the public reaction can be described as overwhelmingly lukewarm. Anniversary has the potential to pick up right where TRAPSOUL left off, and while we wait for Friday, here are five things we have our fingers crossed will come to fruition with this album.
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Despite the fact that R&B as a genre leans heavily on artists expounding the nitty-gritty details of their personal lives, Tiller often barely skims the surface of his inner feelings when touching on his lived experiences. Tiller details past relationships, hardships, and even heartbreak— all while remaining inertly anchored in the shallow end of his emotions. There’s a striking dissonance in delving into some of life’s heaviest events without ever excavating the deep-seated emotions these incidents inevitably derive. A strong case can be made for the fact that Tiller’s music often lacks the candid honesty that would arguably complement his soulful style and 808s perfectly.
Even in songs like “Let Em Know” in which Tiller (otherwise known by his moniker, Pen Griffey) professes he’s willing to fight for the woman he wants, he doesn’t actually reveal much in terms of his feelings for her or what it is about their relationship that makes it so worth fighting for. “Exchange,” Tiller’s second 2015 hit single, was reminiscent of Drake’s “Take Care” in many ways, with Tiller being all up in his feelings over a girl with whom things didn’t work out— however, he reveals next to nothing about their actual relationship. Despite the song being catchy and certifiably replay-worthy, the actual lyrical content makes for a great elusive Instagram caption. It seems as though Tiller’s lack of emotional depth in his music has become something of a glass ceiling for the singer, in some ways preventing him from reaching the next level as an artist.
An Evolved Narrative
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Tiller’s come-up story is one of resilience, faith, and strength. Having had his first daughter, Harley, when he was only 17 years old, Tiller put his musical aspirations on pause to provide for her, working multiple jobs and even having to live out of his car for a period. However, despite the immense strides his career has made since then, his lyrical narrative has not made the same headway. Tiller tends to lean heavily on his come-up story, which, seeing as he isn’t one for expressing ample emotion, only so much can be said about. Unless Tiller was to take a different approach and place his most profound feelings front-and-center, this narrative is one that should be put to rest. Tiller’s life has changed vastly since he first emerged in 2015— he began dating his girlfriend, Kendra Bailey, in 2018, and the two even welcomed a daughter last December. It seems only fitting that Tiller’s narrative should progress accordingly as he enters each new phase of his life.
Increased Diversity In Sound
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One of the reasons True To Self fell so unexpectedly flat was the fact that in terms of Tiller’s vocals and lyrics, the album was little more than an unvarying echo of TRAPSOUL. Granted, it makes sense Tiller would have wanted to capitalize off of the elements that made TRAPSOUL so popular, however, the predictability of the album gave listeners the impression that the singer’s creativity had hit a wall. Tiller could stand to dabble outside of his comfort zone without necessarily having to sacrifice his authenticity. The singer has worked with producers by the likes of Timbaland and Prince Chrishan, as well as lesser-known engineers MixedByIcon and Andre Caram. We’re just hoping that this time around, he pushes himself to explore new sounds on the production side, and perhaps even try out a new cadence or two, if only just to see what happens.
A couple of rap verses
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Being able to sing and rap equally well is a talent not everybody can claim, but Tiller walks that line extremely well. Having demonstrated his talent for rapping on songs like “Self-Made” and “Don’t Get Too High,” each time Tiller decides to roll out a bar, there is a certain air of excitement. On “Don’t Get Too High,” Tiller smoothly switches between rapping and singing while professing his desire to a woman. Incorporating rap into a song or two on this album would be an exciting experience for the listener, as its rarity makes it a welcome novelty.
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Tiller’s TRAPSOUL deluxe “Rambo” remix with The Weeknd teased the greatness that any Tiller collaboration might have to offer. Despite the fact that he is often a guest artist on other musicians’ songs (“Wild Thoughts”, “Playing Games”), Tiller is rarely one to feature other artists on his own songs. Nonetheless, we are hoping that on Anniversary, Tiller pops up with another artist or two– and we’re pretty flexible/easy-going as to who it could be, really any r’n’b or hip-hop artist could make for an exciting collab. Plus, this idea would lend itself to an increased diversity in his sound, or at least the possible exploration of a new sound, a borrowed or collaborated on sound. Regardless of who it is, we are hoping the album will reveal the growth Tiller has endured, both musically and personally, since TRAPSOUL.
Are you excited for Bryson Tiller’s new album? Let us know in the comments what you’d like to see on the album.