Review Summary: "Oxnard" has a few shining moments, but that doesn't keep it from overstaying its welcome and leaving a bad taste in the listener's mouth.
Anderson .Paak is an artist that thrives off of quirky lyricism, a vibrant persona, and a concoction of neo-soul and west coast hip hop. He always aims to combine the old with the new, to create the perfect blend of Cali-influenced throwback rap and new wave funk. With that in mind (and after listening to his previous album, Malibu, and album that was promising but left me yearning for something better), I was excited to put on my headphones and ride a tasteful wave of well put together modern music.
Well, it’s safe to say that I was thoroughly disappointed.
The album’s opening track, “The Chase,” crescendos from beach samples and gorgeous female vocals into a funky, groovy, summertime banger. It sounds like something that the love child of Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar would make for a James Bond film. It sets the tone for an album that should be a smorgasbord of soulful tunes and west-coast aesthetic. So then why does the next track, “Headlow,” sound like a generic 60’s r&b song that I would hear playing at a local barber shop, minus the distasteful sample of .Paak receiving sloppy toppy in a car that does nothing for the song or the album as a whole? And why is this song over 4 minutes long?
This is the thesis for this entire album. It’s a back-and-forth rollercoaster between admirably energetic and unbearably uninspired, with an occasional track that falls somewhere in the middle. It possesses qualities of talents that aren’t being used to their full potential. And, of course, there is one major downfall of this project: Its length. This 14-track record is over an hour long, with most songs chiming in around the 4 minute mark, some even over 5 minutes. There wouldn’t be a problem with this if there was some interesting material to fill in that time frame, but instead, it’s used for no other reason than to allow the instrumentals to play out and fade away. It’s entirely unnecessary and does nothing to draw in the listener.
There are plenty of complaints to be made of "Oxnard"; The awkward sudden transitions (see “Brother’s Keeper,” a track that starts out solid but then turns switches up into an indie track out of the blue), the lyrically stale features from Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, the overly sanitary production, etc. etc. Yet, even despite all its gripes, there are some surprisingly great cuts on this thing. The song “6 Summers” is an interesting political track that tackles topics such as gun control and Trump, whilst maintaining a fun beat that even a conservative could swing along to. “Saviers Road” is a quick, to-the-point cut that seems fit for a nice drive along the shoreline. “Sweet Chick” is by far the most entertaining song on the LP, a track about women and an abusive relationship that provides comical relief with some well-placed samples and bars about anime, sex, and arcades. But that doesn’t save the album in its entirety from being a major flop, as the good simply doesn’t outweigh the bad.
No pizza is cut perfectly, and no pizza has an even distribution of toppings across every slice. Some slices are big and stacked with all the fixin’s. Others are small, burnt, and have maybe 2 slices of pepperoni on them. "Oxnard" is a pizza that has way more of the latter slices. Take the few good pieces that are there, and whatever you do, don’t eat the whole pie, or you will certainly end up with a stomach ache.