Words by: Matthew Griffiths
Bladee is back with his fourth project in the space of a year and edges ever closer to a Pop sound.
Bladee is the Swedish Rap enigma that is consistently difficult to categorize, musically and otherwise. Despite bursting onto the scene with his emotionally charged brand of Rap he has gradually been incorporating more and more of his personal tastes into his music and it is creating something interesting. If you needed something more globally recognised to compare it to, sonically the sound he’s curated on The Fool sits in the same realm as a lot of Lil Uzi Vert‘s work. With such an interesting body of work to unpack, here is my track by track review of the project.
Bladee bursts onto “The Fool Intro” in a flurry of light SEGA-esque arpeggiated synths. “Confess your sins”, he sings repeatedly in the chorus. It’s during these repetitive refrains where Bladee sounds slightly breathless. This could be a stylistic choice – especially in a time where modern music production software allows artists to do a seemingly infinite number of takes. This breathlessness would go hand in hand with the desperation of the lyrics, demanding for “pain and guilt” to be washed away.
This is then followed up by “Let’s Ride” which maintains the high energy of the last track. Here we’re also introduced to some heavy bass in the form of thumping 808s along with some trappy drum patterns. However, the mood has shifted from down and despondent to having an air of confidence, and a “faith” in a higher power.
“Interning at faith but I just got hired/
360 with God and I can’t get fired/
Hot boy but I’m cold standing in the blue fire”
So far in the album, each track jumps out at me pretty much immediately without much time to adjust. Like Grime music, these tracks are audacious and attention-grabbing in the first few moments with them. There is no long, drawn out or slow intro, we’re not even 10 seconds into “Hotel Breakfast”, and already Bladee’s voice pops out “like a toast”. Sadly, the rest of the song isn’t about breakfast. Bladee possibly reflects on his fan’s adoration of him – he humbly responds:
“I am not anyone, I’m just some air inside the air/
A piece of sand in all the sand, drop of water in the ocean/
It may not seem that way, but I can promise you it’s that/
But enough of that, I’m coming back, I jump right back into the trash”
The production on “I Think” is more laid back. The synth melodies sound light and hopeful, matching the theme of Bladee singing to a potential love interest, feeling out whether he could be the one for her or not. This yearning links back to more faith based lyrics, where he confesses to having been praying “all night every day” for “something”.
More rapid arpeggiating synths return on “Thee 9 Is Up”. Bladee confidently and melodically raps over the high-energy beat, making the positive lessons in his lyrics clear – when you’re at the bottom, the only way you can go is up. “Desiree” follows it up and feels like a Vaporwave trip into the clouds. Possibly Trance inspired, a positive and affirming yet simple synth melody drives the song, as many Bladee tracks do. Ideas around addiction and frustration manifest in “I Want It That Way”. On a beat, with much lighter synth sounds, Bladee continues the theme of yearning for change within himself. On my ears, it feels like a nice break from the other beats so far.
The intensity increases on the distorted and Trance-melody driven track, “BBY”. The track is extremely busy with the sharp synths alongside Bladee’s falsetto melodic Rap. It leans towards Hyperpop in terms of the density of all the sounds together, which may be jarring to some listeners. Bladee’s flow is catchy, and the melodies are on point, but it might just be too much at once. Then we get to “Inspiration Comes”.
I wanted to like this track, seeing as it features fellow Drain Gang member, Thaiboy Digital, but I found the production to be too busy and the melodies less inspiring (despite the title). Although, the lyrics certainly paint a vivid picture of the hopelessness one often experiences growing up, comparing Bladee’s difficulties with “highschool football tryouts”.
“Fumbling in the dark, I’m going blind (Blind)/
At the end of the tunnel, I didn’t see a light/
This probably won’t work but let’s try one time/
Drain Highschool football tryouts”
On “egobaby”, Bladee begins his verse ever so slightly off-beat, and it works. It’s a charmingly off-kilter flow which reminds me of an autotuned version of Blueface. This track has an intro and more of a build up, which makes it even more satisfying when he begins his verse. The synths on this beat are darker, more subdued, and are less in my face. This is possibly my favourite beat on the album so far. It certainly feels more “night” than “day”.
On “Trendy” my ears are immediately cast back down to the depths of drowning in video-game-esque synths and auto-tuned falsetto – but I like it. The chorus has a nice steady pace to it which brings down the energy to a more manageable level, which gets my head slowly bopping. “Search True” follows it up with a philosophical reflection on the duality of life with his vocal harmonies being the standout feature of the track.
Finally we arrive at the concluding track, “Wett (Water 2)”, although not the strongest track on the album melodically, the tempo and instrumentation of the song winds down the energy of The Fool quite well. By comparing his own psyche to the death and life of plants, Bladee uses nature as an analogy to re-affirm a message which I noticed came up multiple times on the album – that when Bladee is down, he can get up again.
“The flowers bloom and wither forever/
In the, in the perfect dream/
I try, I try, I try to not to, but fall apart and come together again”