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Album Review: Travis Scott’s UTOPIA 

By Daman Singh, September 1 2023—

Where do you go after making one of the most commercially successful records of the decade? It took him five years but Travis Scott finally has an answer with UTOPIA, his great comeback to the industry after some questionable moments in his career. After a jury ruled out an indictment for the Houston rapper for the 2021 ASTROWORLD Tragedy, UTOPIA’s release was underway on July 28 after years of hints and teasing the project. 

Coming in after the highs of the ASTROWORLD  experience, Scott’s fourth solo album had big shoes to fill, but the 19-track sonic journey the rapper brings us on does the job. From the pumping 808s and aggressive howls of “Modern Jam” to the introspective and strong flows of “My Eyes”, Scott’s vocals have become more polished and expressive, building on top of the cinematic production of each song. 

UTOPIA is a two-part journey where the first act of the record is Scott acknowledging his current situation on “HYAENA” and how it could change, and his past life in the second half of “MY EYES”, touching on the 2021 tragedy and what he would do to change what happened. 

Sonically, the opening act of the album shows artistic growth with aggressive drums, eerie synths and noisy samples, yet lyrically it feels lacklustre. Repurposing an old demo for Kanye West’s Yeezus for “MODERN JAM” with Mike Dean’s iconic synth work makes it feel like an IMAX experience, but in terms of lyrics, Scott just isn’t doing much. Unlike the eccentric and haunting vocals of his featured artist Teezo Touchdown, His delivery is too serious for his questionable songwriting — for example, the lyric  “I like a bi bitch on a bi-cycle”. 

Drake kicks off the second act of the LP by firing shots at Pharrell Williams in “MELTDOWN”, making it the most talked about song from the album. It also marks the start of probably the best run of songs from Scott with mosh-pit ragers like “FE!N” ft. Playboy Carti and “TOPIA TWINS” ft. Rob49 and 21 Savage, and dystopian house beats of “DELESTRO” with Beyoncé where Scott sits back and provides a hazy autotuned background for Beyoncé to drive the track. “I KNOW ?” acts as an interlude where Scott takes off his autotune, adding to the vulnerable lyrics through the song.

The internet has taken to calling UTOPIA a Yeezus 2013 rip-off and the biggest claim for that comparison has been “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” ft The Weeknd and Swae Lee, with the drums being exact interpolation of “Black Skinhead” off the Kanye West album. Not only are the drums alike, both tracks discuss similar topics lyrically. Scott’s track being heavily influenced by West’s is symbolic of where his sound comes from, as Scott not only worked on that album as a producer but he was also heavily inspired by it during his early works like “Owl Pharaoh” (2013) where he’s wearing the influence on his sleeve. 

Tracks like “SKITZO” and “LOST FOREVER” bring some typical formulated trap rhythm to the tracklist, and then the album takes a complete 180 in “LOOOVE” with Kid Cudi’s howls and his dialogue with Scott’s about their fans and their affection towards them. It contrasts the dystopian image of fame in “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” and “PARASAIL”. Following “LOOOVE” is the most hated track on the album and it’s understandable why — “K-POP” is the most not-Travis Scott sounding song on this album. It feels like a Bad Bunny leftover demo and is out of place in the tracklist, making it an instant skip.

West’s hand in the album is undeniable with his unused demos being tracks for the project. “TELEKINESIS” with Future and SZA was originally a track for Donda (2021) until it was scrapped. “TELEKINESIS” is a polished experience with the most jaw-dropping feature on the album by SZA that will leave you wishing Future had less verses. The final track makes you wish for something similar. “TILL FURTHER NOTICE” could have been the best album closer Scott has ever done if he didn’t have 21 Savage on it. James Blake and Metro Boomin’s production is a work of art, but for the final track, you would expect to hear more from Scott himself. Instead, it’s a let-down.

UTOPIA is in the same position as an album like KID A (2001) or Humbug (2009), where there are big shoes to fill in, but the artist decided to do a complete left turn from their original sound. This project’s release was followed by a film done in the historical circus maximus in Rome, followed by a concert there that ended up causing an earthquake in the monument.UTOPIA is a brilliant concept, and it will be exciting to see how this album grows over a live stage, but the album itself could have been executed far better.

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