Review Summary: An adventurous vision of pop, but not quite reaching breakout status.
Slayyyter’s mixtape was powerful or tasteless based on how much you can stomach turn of the millennium trends. I devoured that shi
t and sung its praises to anyone who would listen. As a Slayyyter stan, I’m now in the unenviable position of defending a disappointing follow-up. Let the record show: the mixtape holds up as a euphoric collection of pop music. As for this album, well, I’ll get into that soon.
Let’s first get up to speed on key events since the self-titled mixtape. Slayyyter got cancelled by Twitter for racist slurs she tweeted… as a sixteen year old. She collaborated with the Drake of underground pop alongside Kim Petras. She tried
to collaborate with Azealia Banks, but that ended in a fiery meltdown as expected. After hitting the essential junctures of a rising pop star, Troubled Paradise
positions her for a breakthrough into the mainstream. She’s conquered a Very Online crowd of messy bitches who live for drama; now she’s making a play for listeners that enjoy Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. All the elements are in place: a brash persona, dynamic genre fusion, and visuals to sell the package. She’s a viral TikTok away from superstardom, but Troubled Paradise
fumbles its opportunity as a launching point.
In anticipating this record, I kept a close eye on Rina Sawayama, a peer indulging in Y2K aesthetics and also gunning for a break into the pop industry. Granted, that’s where the similarities end between them. Rina delivered a debut about hereditary trauma, racial identity, overcoming adversity and other Brit Award things; Slayyyter writes songs about deepthroating cock and flashing her tits on Chaturbate. There’s a volley of charisma to how she attacks the work, a quality that’s carried over from Slayyyter
. It’s the reason that “Mine” has solidified as the clear highlight for me: the verses are the sweetest candy I’ve ever tasted, vowels curling like sour strips to the eardrums. She moves past the Britney vocal fry this time, indulging in profane rapping and soulful diva wails. Good thing that ‘star quality’ is on display, because Troubled Paradise
finds her in troubled waters.
First on strike is the overall concept: Slayyyter follows up her mixtape with… another mixtape. Restless and scattershot, it's a showcase of her artist persona that I’m sure was very impressive to the suits on the label. Problem is that it fails to cohere as an album: the opening run is comprised of vignettes that at times barely scrape the 2 minute mark, tossing out ideas with no sense of forward momentum. It takes until “Trouble Paradise” to reach solid grounding, an enveloping house number that stretches to 4 minutes. For once, I’m grateful for a lengthy album rollout: on first spin, I had that sinking feeling when you hear a title track that’s mid. The structure is too… circulatory. Verses and choruses bleed into each other, a lack of dynamism that keeps the track from popping off. Now however, I’m drawn to the turbulence within the storm. There’s an insidious melody to “reminisce on the days when you were mine,
” among tiny hooks that take time to latch on. Again and again, her charisma overrides the structural issues.
At least there’s one tune I can praise without reservation: “Clouds” is a depressive bop that immediately corrects the fault of the preceding track. Here the chorus snaps
into place, a house beat propelling the motion forward. Slayyyter lays down another striking melody: “I’m unhappier than I’ve ever been
” delivered as a ray of sunlight, the bittersweet contrast hitting an emotional note. While the fans have gathered around “Over This!” as the album highlight, this tune edges it out for me. That track has the juiciest concept on paper – I was excited before I even heard it. Take the hyper compressed guitar of faux punk like Avril Lavigne and Ashlee Simpson and filter it through hyperpop production. The result is a pop punk riff that rattles in a digital cage, unruly and ecstatic. Slayyyter’s vocal delivery harkens back to 90’s rock, all refrains and key changes, amounting to an infectious tune that’s the easiest to recommend here. I’m left wanting slightly
more, though: “Over This!” crests with a vocal rather than instrumental climax. The bottled-up energy of the guitar section is left unreleased, a microcosm of the problem with the album as a whole. Troubled Paradise
is brimming with ideas, careening through modern sonic trends but ultimately fumbling its execution. It’s not the breakout hit we wanted. Despite that, Slayyyter's potential in the pop scene remains very compelling - I’m not hopping off this ride.