Juice WRLD's sophomore album is ambitious but ultimately inconsistent.
Juice WRLD burst onto the scene last year with two songs that ended up taking the world by storm. People first caught onto "All Girls Are The Same" before the artist proceeded to absolutely blow up with "Lucid Dreams." To this day, the latter is still one of the biggest songs in the world. Because of the success he reached with his debut album Goodbye & Good Riddance, as well as his singles up to that point, people were excited to tune in for his official sophomore effort. The tracks that Juice WRLD released during the lead-up to Death Race For Love all served a specific purpose, and they served it well. "Robbery" follows a classic Juice WRLD formula. "Hear Me Calling" gives us elements of mystery and evolution, allowing the listener to head into his album with intrigue and curiosity.
Death Race For Love was released last week and its sales numbers prove just how much of an impact the young Chicago artist holds. He's only been around the mainstream circle for a little over twelve months and already, Juice is set to debut atop the Billboard 200 with approximately 165K units of the album moving during its first week. Those are huge numbers and would usually reflect directly in the content we're being presented. While you can tell that Juice WRLD is attempting to reach his next form, Death Race For Love ultimately ends up sounding somewhat chaotic. Yes, there are plenty of songs on here that will remain on repeat for the next few months. "Fast," "Ring Ring," "Flaws And Sins," and a few others are personal favorites. However, as a whole, the album should have been more concise in both its literal length and thematic schemes.
Juice WRLD's sophomore album begins with three songs that don't necessarily achieve anything special. "Empty" sounds like it would fit perfectly on the rapper's previous project. "Maze" is a bit of a departure from Juice's regular structure, featuring an interesting hook and a gloomy instrumental. The lyrical content is consistent with the majority of his past work and, most importantly, we've got the following lyric which will live on forever: "These pills and my Pro Tools still got logic."
By the fourth song, the project starts to take a turn for the interesting, by way of an interlude performed by the incredible Brent Faiyaz. Juice WRLD is seemingly making a concerted effort to be different by dropping a mellow track just a few songs into his album. Usually, an artist will load the front portion of their project with bangers, knowing full well that people's attention spans just aren't what they used to be. Juice doesn't care though. He's doing what he wants and it's certainly respectable. After "Demonz," we get what can be considered the most interesting song on the project. We've heard the artist getting personal and emotional in his music. However, all of that sounds surface-level when compared to "Fast." For some reason, this particular cut stands out as a big moment for Juice WRLD, marking an evolution from somebody who sings exclusively about drugs and heartbreak to an artist who can take a deep, introspective look at themselves.
Once we get to "Flaws And Sins," you can clearly hear the influence that somebody like Chief Keef likely brought down on Juice WRLD. Although Keef isn't as popular today as he once was, his auto-tuned melodies and unique pronunciation have been mimicked by most rising Chicago rappers. Juice doesn't exactly try and imitate the Chi-Town drill artist but at times, the way he says certain words in the hook mirrors Keef's recognizable drawl. Things get much muddier by the time we reach "Syphilis." Everything from the way this song is mixed to Juice's vocal inflections and ad-libs screams XXXTentacion. This song easily could be mistaken as a collaboration between the late Florida rapper and his best friend Ski Mask The Slump God. When Juice WRLD explored his screamo side on Ski's "Nuketown," he actually sounded like himself. It was a refreshing change of lanes. However, "Syphilis" sounds like he's trying to be somebody that he isn't. It appears out of nowhere and just doesn't fit in the already-loaded tracklist.
"The Bees Knees" would be a perfect place to end the project. It has a naturally satisfying outro after the beat switch, leading into a Kanye West-style production and an appropriate spoken-word message from Juice WRLD. After flowing smoothly, he transitions into a minute-long goodbye message -- only, this isn't actually him saying goodbye. There are six more songs that follow. On top of that, the next song is debatably the most anticipated on the entire project: Young Thug's feature.
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All in all, this album isn't bad at all. It's incredibly enjoyable and will likely remain in rotation for a minute. However, there are parts where Juice WRLD appears to be forcing a stylistic evolution in hopes of reaching the next level of rap superstardom. The artist is priding himself on the fact that he released this without anybody's help, noting on his Twitter page that he freestyled the entire album. While that's a pretty impressive achievement, there are certain songs that sound like missed opportunities in terms of execution and the effective enactment of his ideas. Perhaps if he had taken time to write, this would not be the case.
On the other side of the spectrum, Juice does not rely on anybody's star power to drive people to his album. He knows that he is capable of creating a long-lasting project and took responsibility to do so again when he enlisted only one big name to join him on Death Race. He goes it alone for the most part and does a solid job. Although the content within "Make Believe" is a suitable point to close Death Race For Love, it is far less impactful as an outro than something with the same structure as "The Bees Knees" would have been.
Death Race For Love shows overall improvement from Juice WRLD but it does not reach the heights that the artist likely hoped for. It will debut at the top of the Billboard charts and it will be a hit with most audiences but it's not a classic. What did you think of it?