Performing Arts

ALBUM REVIEW: AMERICAN BOYFRIEND

An Album Review on American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story by Kevin Abstract

Kevin Abstract, released his 16-track sophomore follow up to 2015’s MTV1987 on November 18th, 2016. The album contained no features and underwent a few transformations, the first form being conceived as Death of a Super Model then swiftly renamed to They Shoot Horses until it was announced as American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story in June. The bulk of the production on the record was handled by Romil Hemnan, Jeff Klienman, and Michael Uzowuru. The latter of these musicians is a long-time collaborator with acts such as Vince Staples, Domo Genesis, Vic Mensa, Earl Sweatshirt, and, most recently, Frank Ocean on his two new projects Blonde and Endless. Abstract also recruited Om’Mas Keith, another producer credited with production on over a dozen of Ocean’s tracks, for two of the songs. The parallels between Ocean and Abstract don’t stop there. Both are young black men, both identify as bisexual, and both create genre-bending music that redefine the limits of what can be labeled as rap. When choosing where to premiere his fourth and final single for his upcoming effort, he landed on Dash Radio’s The Shane Show, a radio network entangled in the web of media created by Christian Clancy and Odd Future, a rap group that Frank used to be a key player in.

Abstract’s album opens with the second single promoted for the LP, Empty. The song features a solitary piano chord progression accompanying Abstract’s vocals eventually being embellished with snares and other drums during the hook and bridge. The song sets up the subject matter of the album which is Abstract’s “American Boyfriend” or a football player he fantasizes about. “He was everything I dreamed of/Used to ride around in his two seater” he raps on Seventeen. This fantasy, similar to the man Frank Ocean wrote about prior to his own sophomore release Channel Orange, is nothing more than just that, a fantasy. As it always inevitably does, reality crashes down on Abstract and he is forced to deal with his own mother’s homophobia, as well as the mother of his boyfriend not approving of him due to the color of his skin. Aside from the songs addressing these problems there are also a number of songs on the album that are much less lyrically focused and are shorter in length. These songs can be as short as 23 seconds. They briefly introduce a concept and end as quickly as they start.

Even though it is impossible to overlook the similarities between artists Frank Ocean and Kevin Abstract, their 2016 releases show some key distinctions that set them apart. Ocean’s Blonde revisited his youth in blissful nostalgia generating lyrics such as “I thought that I was dreaming when you said you loved me” and “If the sky is pink and white/If the ground is black and yellow”. In contrast, Abstract’s American Boyfriend revisits his high school years recounting his worst experiences in more vivid detail and emotion than Ocean does with lines such as “The hardest part of my day is wishing I was fucking straight”. If Frank Ocean’s Blonde is Radiohead’s sonic masterpiece Pablo Honey, Kevin Abstract’s American Boyfriend is Nirvana’s In Utero, making up for what it lacks in detail with experimentation and raw emotion.

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