To Cudi’s credit, The man on the moon III: the chosen one is not a grab for cash or a plea for relevance. He is doing relatively well without it. (This year alone he starred in Luca Guadagnino’s new HBO show, appeared in the third Bill and Ted movie, and scored a No.1 single with Travis Scott.) But even though Cudi’s heart is in the right place, The man on the moon III It’s always like when the old rock band gets together and their costumes don’t fit anymore.
On the album, the old crew are back – Dot Da Genius, Mike Dean, Plain Pat, Emile Haynie and even Evan Mast from Ratatat – and new faces have been added: specifically Take a Daytrip, the beat-do duo that shows up when major Atlanta-based producers are too busy. To make the album more important, it is divided into four acts and attempts to follow a vague concept of trying to defeat your demons and find peace. Part of what made Cudi’s music appealing in the first place was that he was an ordinary man. Her stories of how struggles with depression and loneliness affected her relationships were detailed enough to be personal but also vague enough to be easily applied to anyone’s life. This is no longer reality and Cudi does not seem to realize it.
When he’s not trying to be relatable, Cudi excels. “The girl tells me she doesn’t know what she wants / Lotta’s demons crawl, they live below,” he rapped uncomfortably on the album’s best song, “Tequila Shots,” by casting a snippet of his life instead of attempting to capture the zeitgeist. On that familiar Dot Da Genius and Daytrip beat, his tone strikes the perfect balance, not too mundane or too excited, which is usually the case for him.
The worst thing that happened to Cudi, musically speaking, was the time he spent hanging out with Travis Scott. On “Damaged,” the production digs arena-ready, one-note vocals, screaming ad-libs and a disappointing drop tick all the boxes on a record generic enough to fit on. Jackboys. The same could be said for “Show Out”; Pop Smoke’s verse feels like it was never meant to be used, the drill-influenced beat is like when fast-paced fashion steals runway designs, and Cudi’s spirituality is superficial. Cudi seems to think he’s making records that the Rolling Loud crowd will eventually make, but he’s probably more likely to end up at dinner parties hosted by Virgil Abloh.
But even when Cudi stops the rage, The man on the moon III is not better. If it weren’t for real, “She Knows This” would be known as a lazy parody of a Cudi song: it starts with a preview clip of Michael Cera from Scott Pilgrim and ends with Cudi using voice manipulation techniques that should have been removed after the My beautiful dark twisted fantasy sessions. The second half of the album meets all of Cudi’s clichés: “The Void” has lifeless buzzes; “Lovin ‘Me” has the flawless collaboration with an independent sweetheart, this time it’s Phoebe Bridgers; “Elsie’s Baby Boy” has the half ass vocals on a miserable sounding guitar sample that has plagued almost every Cudi record afterward. Man on the Moon II.
And while it’s admirable to hear Cudi talk about his mental health and addiction issues, it doesn’t automatically make the music interesting. Cudi croons, “Say, ‘I’m waiting to die,’ I’m crying / Many nights I spent fucking myself, living a lie,” on “Mr. Solo Dolo III”, a sequel to Man on the moon remarkable, but his flat voice and labored production make him disappointing. If anything, “Mr. Solo Dolo III ”is only memorable because of its title, which loves too much The man on the moon III is based on a legacy built a lifetime ago.
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