When Jack Harlow released “Come Home the Kids Miss You,” I was pretty excited to review it. I’ll admit, I have yet to write an overtly negative review for Recess because the artists I sign up to write about are typically artists that I enjoy and expect great work from. More often than not, they deliver. In that sense, I feel like I was tricked by this new Harlow album. Coming off of an immense rise in the past few years, as well as a genuinely insane guest verse in Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby,” I frankly expected more from Harlow’s new album than what I ended up receiving, but that could be my fault for not managing my expectations properly. The cover art depicts Jack Harlow sitting beside a microphone in a white void, and when he first announced that picture as the cover of his album, I thought it looked boring. In retrospect, I must say that fit perfectly with the blandness that ensued.
Perhaps I’m being harsh, but this album is mediocre on various levels. Both the instrumentals as well as the lyricism leave a bit to be desired. The perfect example of what I’m talking about comes from the biggest single from this album, “First Class,” which is one of Harlow’s sleepiest songs. The chorus for the song features Harlow lazily ad-libbing over a sample of Fergie’s “Glamorous” in a way that sounds like he’s drifting into REM sleep. The instrumental also had pretty little going for it, which is a trait that carries over to many of the other songs on this album.
I think I understand the sonic tone that Harlow is attempting in the bulk of these songs. His jazzy instrumentals are most likely trying to evoke a sense of royalty — picture Harlow sitting atop a throne and rapping at you from above about his success and life experiences. However, many of his instrumentals actually sound like elevator music, which isn’t bad — he just lacks the intensity in his line delivery to pull it off. It just seemed like he was using the same line delivery in most of the songs on this album, and by the end, I was begging for him to switch things up a bit.
This album does have its moments, though. “I’d Do Anything to Make You Smile” features Harlow actually bringing energy to a track with a unique, bouncy flow. The horns on “Nail Tech” remain catchy and stuck in my head. “Churchill Downs” features Drake taking over for half the song. And there’s “Dua Lipa,” which has a pretty good beat and is pretty much the song equivalent of Harlow sliding into pop star Dua Lipa’s DMs. Apparently, Lipa approved of the song, which is respectable, though, in my opinion, pretty surprising. “Like a Blade of Grass” is also a good song that tells a story about Harlow’s interactions with a girl, even if the story doesn’t really go anywhere beyond a simple flirty exchange.
I was fairly unimpressed by the rest of the songs, though. The opening track, “Talk of the Town” had an interesting sample and felt like it was going to go somewhere, but at a runtime of 1 minute 22 seconds, it ends before it begins. Its follow-up, “Young Harleezy,” is also fairly bland, with Harlow rapping about his difficult rise to success, but nothing else. The track “Side Piece” is a tongue-in-cheek ode to the women that Harlow sees on the side, sounding like nothing more than a somehow-even-cornier clone of Lil Dicky. “Movie Star” features Pharell on the chorus, and his part genuinely doesn’t mesh with the rest of the instrumental, which is disappointing because I’m usually a big fan of his work.
What confuses me is that Harlow is acting as if he’s introducing himself to the public with “Come Home the Kids Miss You,” when in reality we all know who Harlow is. He’s already released an album, he’s been featured on countless songs, he’s had his own hits and he’s a well-known media personality. So why does he feel the need to tell us nothing about himself other than what we already know?
Harlow seems afraid to open up on the mic. On “State Fair,” he paradoxically complains about cameras pointed at his face wherever he goes, and yet brags to the listener that they’d trade lives with him in a heartbeat. This is a really interesting juxtaposition, but he chooses not to expand upon the complexities of his fame, rather choosing to only rap about his life of luxury for the rest of the song. That’s really the issue with this album — aside from the blandness of the sound, what Harlow is saying just isn’t interesting anymore. He wants everyone to know he’s living large and embracing his success, but I just wish his music reflected how he felt about it.
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