Review Summary: OH MAN I'M SAD IN ALL CAPS
Processing heartbreak feels like a phenomenon determined by the spin of a wheel. Very game show-esque, step right up!
sort of thing, y’know? Walk away a winner with copious amounts of sarcasm, a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, premium Tinder membership, a gym card—for the ‘Gram, fam!—and whatever else. It’s entirely a mixed-bag of random responses, which is about the perfect descriptor for the tracks of ROMCOM
: a playful, emotional, uneven, sarcastic, honest, and despairing experience lathered in emo rap clichés and consequential production shenanigans. It’s about as clear a reflection of its creator as possible, combining overbearingly cheesy phrases and humor with a ingratiating genuineness that equates to laughing away a lurking ache—focus on the beats, pay no attention to the rapper behind the curtain etc. That isn’t to say NakeyJakey’s debut release succeeds or fails based on sincerity alone, although WOOF
we will talk about that, but it is a key part of how the audience connects to the artist behind this work, and considering Jakey’s presence as a well-regarded public figure with significant enough exposure, there is an existing connection listeners have which inform on or excuse tendencies in the record. Full disclosure: I come bearing neither of these, but understanding both assists in assessing ROMCOM
alongside its merits as a musical project. It’s a promising initial foray into music—one several years in the making, dating back several singles ago to 2016—and an entertaining, albeit bumpy emo rap venture.
Taken at face-value, Jakey evidently has talent with regards to his songwriting abilities; the 27-minute LP flows like a dream and remains remarkably consistent throughout its duration, using gentle synths, string sampling, and trap beats as a foundation to construct lush, ethereal soundscapes that hide a delicate melancholia in their soft tenors. They’re the ideal accompaniment and contrast, capable of both supporting the emotional narrative of the lyrics and inserting a poppy, uplifting vibe to distract from the subject matter. That shiny object of diversion is generally the bouncing, rhythmic feel brought by the bass, whose reverberating tone attaints a noticeably amplified presence in the mix—which is perhaps the only knock against a production that, for the most part, neatly balances all contributing elements. It never reaches a point of diminishing a given track’s value, however, and the release as a whole sounds impressively polished from front to back. Jakey’s restraint plays a significant factor here; rarely, if at all does he delve too far into reigning conventions of the genre—think arbitrary hyperpop interludes, abusing autotune to Geneva Convention-violation levels (though it’s still here!)—and instead sticks to his guns, relying primarily on establishing a robust base premise and developing it gradually into a climax. Whether building around a distorted sample like “REEBOKS OR THE NIKES” or aiming for a modern hit single in “PINE BARRENS,” the instrumental compositions generally stand strong. Good, no awkward personal hiccups to uncover here.
As this is a rap-based record, there’s a naturally heightened emphasis on vocal delivery and lyricism, and it’s here that ROMCOM
has both its selling point and ‘oh-God-run-away’ filter. First off is the genre-standard emo whine: it’s in full bloom here, featuring wavering, overdramatic utterances, yells, shouts, yelps—the full spectrum of someone’s heart going ouch oh no pain. Sprinkle that aforementioned autotune on top and now there’s a decent enough barrier in the way of potential audience investment. Jakey’s pen game elevates this concern to DEFCON 2; there’s no subtlety cloaking the blunt phrases the artist rolls out, including the “I wanna go eighty-five, drive off a bridge and die / I wanna go eighty-two, drive off a bridge with you” chorus to opener “DRIVE OFF A BRIDGE,” the clunky verses of closing number “FAT HEAD,” and the entirety of “SURVIVAL HORROR,” which amounts to aimless name-dropping and purposeless pop-culture references. However, by extracting any and all lurking thoughts and emotions, Jakey is equally capable of offering legitimate bars that encompass his unrestricted style:
Probably bad my favorite part is when I'm cleanin' up the drinks
I grab the dishes out the bed, I put my body in the sink
I get a moment when the water's on my neck
It's probably bad I like it better than your lips
I feel ashamed that I feel that type a way
I don't wanna separate it, but I cannot take this every day
Cuts like that from “EVERY DAY” are an achingly honest portrayal of depression—how hard it can be to even use the shower, how parties are just fuel for anxiety—and with their intent made bare, the emotional payoff cotainss much more immediate power. For every previously-discussed misfire, Jakey has a makeup line (“I'm your best friend in the world when the luck tilts / Would you feel the same if you felt the survivor guilt?”) and can generate an earworm chorus that effectively corrals his penchant for references (“TOMMY HANKS”). What one takes away from these jaunts is ultimately tied into audience expectations; those familiar with Jakey can forgive blemishes since it’s him
through and through, which can excuse faults in vocals or text due to a presupposed authenticity. Likewise, emo rap aficionados aren’t strangers to heart-on-sleeve lyricism that rolls the sleeve up way
too far, therefore diminishing any outburst of problematic prose. Considering the dire chasms the genre can fall into, Jakey’s efforts either fail to register as dealbreakers or are relatively harmless.
The tracks’ compositions themselves can come packaged with questionable choices—looking at you
and your pitch-shifted vox, “TOMMY HANKS” –but their overarching cohesion and cooperation with each other is very impressive. Regardless of where its instrumentals go, ROMCOM
is never a jarring experience, instead gracefully transitioning from track-to-track without sacrificing momentum or overindulging on effects. Much of this is owed to Jakey’s admirably focused songwriting, although his overall strengths as a producer and beat architect are what grant this debut LP with its dreamlike atmosphere and smooth flow. When his pristine synth arrangements intersect with evocative lyricism, there are exciting climaxes to witness that add a surprising level of return value beyond choice singles. As a vehicle for an artist’s exorcism of a heartbreak, ROMCOM
defines Jakey irrespective of whatever background knowledge a listener brings to the table; the touching moments, cheesy electronic crescendos, and pained calls for help are unequivocally Jacob Matthew Christensen—his imperfections, his battles with depression, and his remarkable confidence in his musical style. That lack of persona makes for an engaging record for those with or without context, even if a barrier to entry is attached as a warning label—hell, it was on the cover all along. Dismiss it, roll onwards, and there’s plenty to praise about these attractive, melancholic soundscapes and their naked lyrics.