Review Summary: DUMB.
It has been eight months since the release of Damn
and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t end up one of my most played albums of the year in that time. Kendrick abandoned the jazz influenced, narrative driven nuance of To Pimp A Butterfly
, to create a more modern hip hop sound focusing each song on a its own idea instead of spending an entire album fleshing out a singular feeling. This created an uneven quality throughout the album, making the quality tracks shine against some underdeveloped tracks that felt like they didn’t realize their potential or meander away from the bigger picture of its theme. Yet while Damn isn’t my favorite Kendrick album, it’s hard to dispute how solid an album Kendrick did put out. The album has pushed him into greater heights of stardom than ever before, both critically and commercially, even earning Kendrick a spot on Forbes’ top 30 under 30 list as well as several Grammy nominations.
Just recently, a collector’s edition of the album has been released with the only sole selling point being the track listing has been reversed. When Damn finally did release after much anticipation, there was much rumblings about a second surprise album being dropped. After said album failed to materialize, fan theory led to the case being that the second album was just Damn in reverse. I can see Kendrick himself being caught up in the excitement himself as he even mentions this very theory, saying that it is a different way of listening to it while not outright saying it’s the definitive way of listening to the album.
Regardless, we still have the mirrored album presented to us for purchase and as a product meant to be sold, the collector’s edition of Damn
seems almost offensive to charge for. The whole point of this album ruins what the original album sets out to do. For someone who prides himself on how his albums flow, Lamar’s album doesn’t work as well as its straightforward doppelganger. The collector’s edition starts out playing the more intricate, insightful tracks first, followed by the bombastic singles in the latter half, crippling any sense of buildup, flow, or payoff. Ending the album with BLOOD.
seems like a hilarious oversight that should’ve been one of the very first things to fix if you were to go for a reverse set list. You’re essentially following up the high energy of DNA
, meant to build up to for the rest of the album, with little more than a slow opening track that makes no sense to end as a closer. The very last thing you’d hear on this album is a voice clip from Fox News
lambasting Kendrick’s music. If there ever was a belief that this album was meant to be played in reverse, the least that could have been done was some omissions to patch up these narrative holes, but that comes at the cost of neutering the product from its initial vision anyway. Artistically, this release makes no sense.
Financially speaking, I can see this release meant to take advantage of more time in the limelight following all the year-end award ceremonies, giving it more life amongst the general public. Labels put out deluxe editions all the time after all, and this is just another revenue stream for that. But this is just the worst way to listen to the album and doesn’t offer anything you couldn’t do with the shuffle button. I don’t think this was ever the intended way to listen to Damn.
I doubt that this hiccup will affect the standing of the well-established rapper, but as Kendrick himself ponders on the album, fear of losing it all might come one day and this mistake would be the first of many as his artistic desires take a backseat to financial gain.