Anderson .Paak – Ventura Album Review
“Do you want to make it better?” Anderson pleads on the Smokey Robinson featured second track “Make It Better”. A soulful out-of-body experience of a song that puts major emphasis on the directional shift .Paak is producing in his latest album, and second in 6 months, “Ventura”. Venice, Malibu and then Oxnard in 2018, marked the end of .Paak’s “Beach Trilogy”. Albums comprised of songs, meant to compel the listener into a state of charisma. If one is going into “Ventura” expecting the usual .Paak, with party friendly singles left and right, they might want to take a step back. A slower, instrumentation heavy album, .Paak is asking his listeners to sit down and listen, taking in what he has to say.
The result is full body of work, comprised of glistening moments that while they shine at their highest, can sometimes feel like cubic zirconia in a sea of VVS’s. For example, after two phenomenal opening tracks, the intro in particular, starring a guest verse from the prolific Andre 3000, we meet with “Reachin’ 2 Much”. A track that while featuring another icon in Lalah Hathaway, feels eerily similar to Tyler, The Creator’s “FIND YOUR WINGS” off his 2015 album “Cherry Bomb.” With so much music constantly releasing, it is hard not to be critical on melodic similarities, and while the clear differentiators are there between both songs, it is not enough.
A true king of lyricism, .Paak croons listeners like a hot knife through butter on love songs such as “Chosen One”. Playful, he sounds most confident in himself when there is a sense of flirtation looming. From references to anime heavyweight characters like Tuxedo Mask “up, up like Sailor Moon”, to a nod to the iconic MF DOOM lyric “Just remember all caps when you spell the man name”, Anderson pens the opposite “when I blow up say I did it for MF DOOM, no cap, no cap.”
“Twilight” shows the pure diversity that .Paak’s mother brought up in defense of his last albums criticizers. Where some felt, perhaps rightfully so, the album fell flat, .Paak has seemed to make note of in the creation of “Ventura”. On this track, .Paak mixes house with soul. An infectious pulsating beat of the drum machine takes the forefront of the track as .Paak caters pure emotion in layered vocals and trumpet loops. A track filled with personality and passion that still would not feel out of place at the club is something worth noting.
The closing track “What Can We Do?” featuring Nate Dogg (and a shared sample with Alex Turner side project The Last Shadow Puppets) feels like the credits rolling on a movie one finds bittersweet. “Ventura” certainly delivers in ways his fans hoped he would, but when everything is said and done, we find ourselves left with mere scenes of greatness. As opposed to a big picture. Recently signing onto Dr. Dre’s record label and with a clear sense of where he stands musically, this undoubtedly will not be .Paak’s last record, nor will it go down as his best.
Reviewer’s Favorite Tracks: Make It Better / Chosen One / Twilight
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Tracks: Reachin’ 2 Much / King James
Matthew Dunn is a junior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.