Forget the nostalgia of Astroworld. Scott’s latest work is a lucid journey into the present.
Travis Scott’s Utopia already falls into the list of the best albums of 2023, breaking all streaming records for the track “MELTDOWN,” and all 19 tracks topped Spotify’s Top 20 chart in the U.S. on the day of release. After a five-year absence, the Huston rapper‘s fourth studio album finally saw the light of day on July 28, exactly a year and a half after its release was announced, Travis Scott’s Utopia has struggled to come out of the closet due in part to legal wrangling over his festival, Astroworld, which in November 2021 famously claimed the lives of 10 people crushed by crowds.
Scott has remained silent, merely launching an event safety initiative called “Project HEAL.” He appeared only before an audience at the Zouk nightclub in Las Vegas for a weeklong intimate mini-tour called “Road to Utopia” an emotional and physical preparation for what would be the album launch.
Last week came the first single “K-POP,” featuring The Weekend and a teaser along with Bud Bunny: two names that triggered a mechanism 100 percent child of our times, as people began to massively search for the name Travis Scott Utopia on Google search engines, causing it to skyrocket to the top of SEO, and beyond. As for the first extracted single, some have commented on it as too sparse and without an enigmatic construction, typical of Scott. In fact, the song paints a faded visual and a bleak future, which Astroworld had already accustomed us to, but here it is completely different: it is more insightful and lucid and refers only to the present moment.
After a few days, the second single was released, this time featuring the collaboration of Beyoncé, entitled “DELRESTO.” The track introduces the frame of Bey’s club music-inspired album track Renaissance and continues with Travis’s classic sound.
The rapper was also planning a colossal launch of the album with a live performance at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, a show that was later canceled, as Live Nation Middle East reported, due to “complex production issues,” so he “fell back” on Pompeii, where a live performance will be broadcast in the amphitheater of the archaeological ruins, which, as of yet, has no release date.
UTOPIA is powerful work of 19 tracks and 74 minutes of experimentation and collaborations with stellar artists, including the aforementioned Drake, Bad Bunny, Beyoncé, The Weekend, Young Thug, Playboi Carti, Future, James Blake, Kid Cudi, 21 Savage, SZA, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk and others. On “Circus Maximus,” Scott collaborated with The Weekend for a track that features scratchy, synthetic beats, much like early Kanye West’s Yeezus on the album “Black Skinhead.” The whole record goes into a deep, dark spiral inhabited in the rapper’s “utopian” mind, which brings dormant emotions to the surface with clarity and lucidity. Utopia is a record of the present, with few hints of the past or future, without the proverbial dark nostalgia of Astroworld, but just as sharp.
The rapper’s choice not to name feats in his tracks shows a willingness to surprise the listener, who finds himself analyzing the known voice, hypothesizing its name, and keeping him anchored to the track always with a very high focus.
This chameleonic incorporation of featuring occurs without overload: rather than simply inserting a guest verse, each song weaves in the distinct sound and style of the guest artist. Beyond the illustrious features, the album is worth listening to, to appreciate Travis Scott’s effort to tone down the anger and angst expressed in Astroworld -a certain maturation that occurred, perhaps, in part because of the tragedy that befell the November 2021 tour. Your style, however, is always traceable and recognizable.
Is this already your preferred record of 2023?