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The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 12-10-21 – 12-16-21, Juice WRLD’s “Fighting Demons” Reviewed

Eminem’s opinion notwithstanding, is a posthumous album the place to make a deep dive into mental illness? And if it is, surely the Juice WRLD story is being conflated: as if his real death (the moron pilot of a private plane sicced the cops on him for doing drugs on board, Jared rushed to swallow all the oxycodone and codeine and died of an accidental overdose) was precisely due to the addiction. It was just mind-boggling stupidity, but maybe expectedly so at the age of 21.

That was two years ago and the first life after death album was the pretty darn good Legends Never Die, and the latest Fighting Demons, that dropped today, is better. I wasn’t keen on the first single “Already Dead” -a nightmare trip to the voices in his head and whose irony was tasteless. But that is the worst of it, the second single “Wandered To LA” (featuring Justin Bieber) is an autotuned emo melody added to a trap beat and the sound is hip hop not rap. Everything here is hip hop not rap, not even emo rap, it sounds like a deeply melodic set of completed songs not the usual stray verse cobbled together with guests and beats.

“Girl Of My Dreams” with Suga of BTS is a huge song, with Juice singing about the girl and Suga feeling blue about it all, and if that is a pretty and cool track, the rest of the album is infused with a sadness that feels like 20/20 hindsight, the album is consistently good and yet not always fun, it is music to be miserable to, and if it fails to do anything it fails to help us guess where his career was going even if it might work as a lifeboat for folks with mental problems. It will play as a soundtrack to the horrors of teenagerhood where insecurity and anxiety has been increased through the isolation of the pandemic, and a surprisingly effective album. At least three songs, “Girl Of My Dreams,” “Rockstar In His Prime,” and “Wandered To LA” are strong additions to his story.

Grade: A-

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