The curious underappreciation of a writer, producer and true artist.
After a long hiatus, PARTYNEXTDOOR returned with his third studio album, PARTYMOBILE. Alongside early singles ‘LOYAL’ (feat. Drake) and ‘SPLIT DECISION’ is the single ‘BELIEVE IT’ featuring vocals from the inimitable Rihanna; a pleasant surprise as calls for a new album from the businesswoman and mogul reach fever pitch. With twelve other great tracks including a remix of ‘LOYAL’ with Bad Bunny, this album has all the elements necessary for success. However, with a rating of 4.9 out of 10 on Pitchfork and countless expressions of disappointment amongst fans in the echo chamber that is social media, I realise that the problem is not with the material. Time has proven that PARTYNEXTDOOR is a victim of his own talent.
PARTYNEXTDOOR’s music has never really been about numbers. His sales are healthy if unspectacular, but his true success has always been in his ability to garner an audience of dedicated fans. There is an unwavering loyalty that unites those who fell in love with his music when he released his eponymous mixtape in 2013; a fact which bears its own burden – to some, he has never again scaled those heights. Followed by his signing to OVO sound records under long-time collaborator Drake in 2013 and a euphoric debut album that cemented his place amongst the elite of his genre, it seemed that Mississauga native Jahron Braithwaite could do no wrong. And yet, here we are.
‘That smile on your face makes it easy, to trust you...’
The high vocal strains of the Miguel - Girl with the Tattoo Enter.Lewd sample are literally music to any PARTY fans’ ears. Break From Toronto was already his magnum opus before his career had even started; 1:39 of pure excellence in a track notorious for being “too short”. This stroke of genius paid dividends from the beginning, because what do you do with a track that’s too short except play it over and over? The entire mixtape follows in the same vein of tracks that are short, impactful and have the same blend of hip-hop, R&B and soul. It’s no wonder that screenshots from this album are littered across social media with nostalgia-filled pleas for “this PARTY” to return.
The same formula followed on PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO with notable shows of production prowess such as the Disclosure – Latch sample in the track Sex On The Beach and arguably PARTY’s best collaboration with Drake in Recognize. After his first number one as a songwriter coming in 2016 on Rihanna’s timeless single Work (feat. Drake), it seemed impossible that PARTY would ever fall out of favour. His pen, his production and his music itself had been relentlessly impressive.
All this, until P3. The second studio album and with the people in the palm of his hand, surely another hit. True to form, the single Come and See Me (feat. Drake) was released beforehand and despite questionable lyrics from the 6 God, (could be standing in a field and he still ain’t in the field – really?) anticipation was once more sky high. The crash that followed, therefore, was tremendous. P3 was a change in formula that actually found favour with many critics but his core fanbase were not impressed. Choices such as the self-indulgent opening track High Hopes, with a runtime of 7 minutes 22 seconds – a far cry from the accessibility of Break From Toronto - and tracks such as Brown Skin which, put simply, just didn’t measure up to the standard they were used to. In fact, few of the sixteen tracks seem to fit the mould that PARTY had carved for himself. The cruel irony is that PARTY’s consistent excellence earned him the right to experiment with his sound. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion is hardly ever so understanding and even less forgiving. Despite underrated surprise EPs such as COLOURS2, PARTY has struggled to regain the ground lost.
It feels tremendously unjust that one can expect the same knee-jerk reaction to anything PARTYNEXTDOOR now releases. His writing skills still cannot be questioned. The detailing of a man caught in the wrong, framed around the simple crooned chorus ‘said you’ll never trust me again, said you’ll never love me again’ in SPLIT DECISION is a story that if told on PARTYNEXTDOOR, fans would salivate over. It’s time to forgive and recognise that PARTY is the artist he has always been, made better by his mistakes. The PARTYMOBILE continues to move and it’s worth being on, more now than ever.