PartyNextDoor "P4" Review

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PartyNextDoor elevates his strain of R&B through intimate and vulnerable songwriting on "P4."

There comes a time in everyone’s life when change is inevitable, even if it's not something they truly want to embrace. It’s a commonality within the creative process. Every artist should take a leap of faith toward what may feel like a new chapter, no matter how ambitious it might seem. For PartyNextDoor, his efforts have been at the forefront of R&B for the last decade. The imprint he left on Nothing Was The Same might be minimal on paper but it became the foundation of what he’d accomplish on his first mixtape. He’s the connective tissue in the lineage of Toronto’s sound. Drake and The Weeknd undoubtedly helped shape that foundation, but Party expanded it further, especially as the artists mentioned above began exploring their sonic palettes to a globally appealing level. In fact, one could even argue that Party has remained the only artist out of the three who remains rooted in the regional sound they spearheaded. 

Whereas previous efforts, such as PartyMobile and PartyNextDoor 3, showcased his evolution as a producer and a writer, it only slightly displayed his pop sensibilities without deviating from the cloudy Toronto soundscape he helped develop and refine over the years. That said, P4 marks a shift in PartyNextDoor’s career. He finally embraces a cleaner and crisp sound -- taking the bedroom R&B production and toying with it for an all-encompassing project that captures his evolution as both an artist and a person. Ironically, that wasn’t the initial reaction when he dropped the NSFW album cover last month. Paired with early singles like “r e a l w o m a n” and “h e r o l d f r i e n d s,” it felt as though we’d be getting even more toxic relationship advice from an individual who has historically failed to maintain one. However, the hedonism has toned down significantly while the Mississauga-born artist faces a fork-in-the-road dilemma. Coming into his 30s, there’s an urge to settle down and find an anchor to his chaotic life but also a reluctance to enter this specific phase.

The first lyrics heard on the album’s intro “c o n t r o l” are on-brand for Party. “Take your clothes off,” he sings seductively, prefacing the explosion of sexual tension that follows. The airy, euphoric production contrasts the typical PND intro song -- glitchy and moody tributes to after-hours, Instagram Models, paranoia, and graphic descriptions of his bedroom activity. His ability to disguise his carnal urges as romance becomes even more effective when combined with the lush layers of production, including accents of opulent violins. It feels as though love is on his mind until the outro when a woman, a recurring voice across the album skits, divulges that PartyNextDoor proposed a ménage á trois. And just like that, we’re back to square one.

However, that intro only opens the floodgates to the moral quandary he faces across the album: is romance a fleeting concept, especially when weighed against temptation? Songs like “s t u c k i n m y w a y s” and “n o c h i l l” provide classic PND vibes on all fronts, down to the detailed materialistic displays of affection to the melancholic production that embodies the nocturnal side of Toronto. On the former, PND contemplates this newfound love and confronts his commitment issues. “Lettin’ all my h*es go,” he sings, “Love doin' somethin' to me, to make me stay.” But just as quickly, he retreats, singing, “Baby, don't you be offended/ 'Cause I'm so stuck in my ways, I never wanna change.”

The entire album provides a mixed bag of everything that has turned PartyNextDoor into a generational talent, albeit understated. During an interview with Billboard this year, he explained how he treated many songs on his last two albums as demos. Though the dim and hazy sound helped distinguish him from his peers and also contributed to the overall allure, it didn’t necessarily translate to commercial success. But after crafting hits for everyone from Rihanna, DJ Khaled, Drake, and Ye, to name a few, he said that P4 finds him “using everything I learned as a producer, as a writer, as an engineer.”

As a result, the rawness of his sound has vanished in his latest album. Part of it is due to the intentional decision to ditch the gritty auto-tune-friendly melodies to allow his passionate vocal prowess to take center stage, fueling his fiery delivery. It’s a minor change and not one that he hasn’t explored in the past. However, it's what helps make songs like “c h e e r s” and “f o r c e r t a i n” clear contenders for summer anthems. While “c h e e r s” feels like a blatant radio-friendly record (one that works, by the way), it can feel a bit like a forced effort that plays up to the algorithm of DSPs and social media. Meanwhile, “f o r c e r t a i n” fuses dancehall with tinges of Latin flare -- it almost has the essence of “Wild Thoughts,” which comes as no surprise since that’s yet another hit record that his pen was behind.

The beauty behind P4 is that it’s an excellent depiction of PND’s artistry and personality. Though he often comes across as a guarded individual who would prefer to succumb to his toxic traits as a defense mechanism, P4 allows his vulnerability to grow on both paper and in the booth. It’s evident in the skits across the album where he lets us eavesdrop on heated arguments. Then, on songs like “f a m i l y,” he peers at the past through a rearview with reluctance to move forward, though an understanding that he has to. While lead singles like, “r e a l w o m a n,” and the DMX-sampling, “l o s e m y m i n d” were infectious enough to keep us hooked, it’s how these pieces fit into P4 that makes the album such a gratifying listen. 

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About The Author
Aron A. is a features editor for HotNewHipHop. Beginning his tenure at HotNewHipHop in July 2017, he has comprehensively documented the biggest stories in the culture over the past few years. Throughout his time, Aron’s helped introduce a number of buzzing up-and-coming artists to our audience, identifying regional trends and highlighting hip-hop from across the globe. As a Canadian-based music journalist, he has also made a concerted effort to put spotlights on artists hailing from North of the border as part of Rise & Grind, the weekly interview series that he created and launched in 2021. Aron also broke a number of stories through his extensive interviews with beloved figures in the culture. These include industry vets (Quality Control co-founder Kevin "Coach K" Lee, Wayno Clark), definitive producers (DJ Paul, Hit-Boy, Zaytoven), cultural disruptors (Soulja Boy), lyrical heavyweights (Pusha T, Styles P, Danny Brown), cultural pioneers (Dapper Dan, Big Daddy Kane), and the next generation of stars (Lil Durk, Latto, Fivio Foreign, Denzel Curry). Aron also penned cover stories with the likes of Rick Ross, Central Cee, Moneybagg Yo, Vince Staples, and Bobby Shmurda.
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