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Kid Cudi: Nothing Up His Sleeve

What’s Cleveland ever done for you, right? I mean, Reggie Miller? Thanks for nothing… And Drew Carey? The price aint ever right for him. So thanks for Kid Cudi who on his new album Man On The Moon: End Of The Day seems to be making a claim for a more deeply felt romantic indie pop album with atmospheric backing tracks when he is not inviting Kanye and Common to guest.
It works but not always. “The Pursuit Of Happiness” I’ve written about a number of times by now and it improves with every listen, “Day ‘N’ Nite” is already a hit and with the atmospherics (what the hell is being played on the sample?) is a good primer for the album proper though there is a but less singing than on other songs. “Make Her Say” (With Kanye West) must have cost a fortune, it samples Lady Gaga’s :”Poker face” for no discernible reason but what the hey, one more hit is fine. But after that things get much darker and “Alive (Nightmare)” is a counter to “Pursuit” though as dark as you can imagine and a scary sound with the electro instrumental alt band Ratatat making their second appearance.
All the lonely stoner stuff is both a little silly and a little smart and it when it works, on Kanye’s “Welcome to heartbreak” for instance, it works real well and when it doesn’t on bits and pieces of Moon, it doesn’t because the sound is so samey it can feel as though you are in a loop of ambient moodiness. Cudi is such a fragile soul you worry for him but fragility in pop has got to be hiding something else (and vice versa): cupidity, emotional blackmail, depression, insecurities, this sorta stuff, is exceedingly difficult to pull off in hip hop (in anything, really) and what he needs to do is “Straw Dog” it a bit: let his real feelings be the backbone for some tough (or at least tougher) rhymes.
To put it bluntly: Moon can get a bit boring. Comparisons to 808s and Heartbreaks are not inaccurate except West cuts deeper and with the exception of “Pursuit’ there is no song as strong as, say, “Heartless” here and though Cudi has the thrill of the new it isn’t IN ITSELF enough to pull this album through. His rapping is OK and not remotely in the same league as Kanye Wests or Jay-Z, he disappeared last Friday at MSG. Drake is better, hell Flo Rida is better. But Cudi can do other things as well: the backing tracks are not backing tracks as we know, they are often live bands and except for the “Poker Face” sample Moon is a million miles away from Life After Death and east Coast sample as song as propagated by Diddy. These are hip hop songs as caterpillars, as larvae, in the process of metamorphising to a new form of pop. At least that’s the promise.
The only thing up Kid Cudi’s sleeve is love but, as Conor wondered many years ago, will that be enough?

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