PARTYNEXTDOOR's Long-Awaited PARTYMOBILE is a Twisted Tale of Futuristic R&B
Evan Dale // Mar 26, 2020
The crooning melancholy and deep bass that define PARTYNEXTDOOR belong eternally to the long periods of time during which his fans wait – clothed in all black or all beige; to the long periods during which PND creates – in dark basement studios and island vacations. Toronto’s most emotionally-capable crooner (go ahead and try to make some sort of popularity-founded point, @Weeknd fans still cheering past Kiss Land) is a figure – a living experiment – of juxtaposition. Eternally circling sex and the emotional potentialities that carve whirlwinds in its orbit, his music never settles, but wavers between the deep layers of compositional complexity that underline who he – and so many inspired in his wake – are in relation to the rest of where once stood R&B but now subsists its lain shadow. PND is a destroyer of pre-existing labels, hellbent on reinventing sounds and pushing music forward.
PARTYMOBILE is his latest album-length exploration diving deeper into a continued navigation of uncomfortably heavy bass blazing storylines sur love, loss, and unapologetically forward crudeness.
A portion of his aesthetic – the one dressed in beige and beach-bound – is founded in Caribbean influence. And, it has been since his debut project P1not only predicated, but greatly helped usher in hip-hop’s extensive modern borrowing from Caribbean-born stylistic lanes and the West African Cultural Renaissance. Now, much thanks to Drake’s embrace and conformity of island slang, cadence, and especially beat-making; hand-in-hand with the UK’s many scenes in constant collaboration with internationally acclaimed musicians from Nigeria and Ghana, PND simply feels timely, where once he instead stood as experimental and risk-taking.
The other side of his musicality lays in shadow, crouched in echoey self-samples, ghostly, ethereal production, and emotional insecurity, even whilst belaying the most sexually and romantically confident lyrics that a modern songwriter could muster. He is, in essence, the worst of our drunk voicemails turned into groundbreaking Rhythm & Blues for a post-digital age, the timeline of which mainstream society is still not caught up to yet. In permanent duet with himself, and, too, in permanent self-juxtaposition, he explores the duality of man’s compromising thoughts with each and every track on the album. One listen to NOTHING LESS with an open mind to what the aesthetic of what it is that the overarching track is saying; comparing it with his poetically unpredictable penmanship makes for conflicting emotive interests. Again, one take in of PARTYMOBILE’s opener with its subsequent TURN UP yields notice that though its productive edge takes on a darker identity, PND himself revives it with anthemic holler after holler in favor for lighting Vegas T’F up for a night, at least.
By the time THE NEWS changes PARTYMOBILE’s directional heading, the storm clouds feel apropos. PARTYNEXTDOOR wallows in the self-destructive nature of a party that ended hours – maybe days – ago but is risen again this solemnly different Springtime, far too prepared to soundtrack such a moment of unpredictable uncertainty and peril where so many are escaping out of fear and boredom to the vices that have long driven the thematic scape of PND’s music at large.
Musically, an undeniable sweet spot – whether referring to the production flexes, the songwriting strength, or the savagely experimental directionality of it all – floods the emotional expanse of anyone listening from TOUCH ME to SAVAGE ANTHEM. A short introduction period of leading singles may pave the way and pull listeners in, but everything onward braces them – prepares their ears – for the kind of music bound for the mainstream in the wake of PARTYMOBILE’s eventual success and acclaim. The album’s mid-section sounds like nothing – not even prior PARTY – to come before it.
Through it, PND invents wildly, experimenting left and right with unapologetic ambition to force musicians into some sort of creative battle with him where, the directions that R&B and Neo-Soul have been heading both productively and instrumentally, are now moot, and everyone can only play whatever cinematically magnificent composition it is they find in their favorite HBO series. With flute and string instrumentation reminiscent of some impressionistic 19thcentury French springtime, PARTYNEXTDOOR makes SHOWING YOU this all-too young of a century’s most uniquely, and sure, bizarrely rooted love ballad. Maybe, also, its best.
From Nigeria, PND sources and successively births a Toronto-spun Alté track out of EYE ON IT. Bleeding into the booth with the fantastical chimes signature to any of his prior projects and also the genius of modern Alté leaders like Santi, while coalescing them with rhythmic queues taken from the birthplace of rhythm at large, he proves his long-established and forward-moving effect on music’s trending at a macro scale.
And transitioning it into BELIEVE IT – a properly Caribbean-rooted Rihanna bop – which somehow feeds perfectly from its predeceasing track – is a stroke of geographic genius on how stylistic channels themselves have funneled from one to the other through epochs.
PARTYMOBILE is, like each PND collective work of the past and future, a work of contemplative opacity, where meaning and emotion must be inferred by the listener and projected onto by their subsequent vulnerability or overbearing desire to throw a house party. There is no in-between. PND’s great gift has always been and always will be the exhibition of man’s juxtaposing states. PARTYMOBILE is sex or sleep. A dream state or the desire for utter darkness.