Tracking New Music Releases with Zac Wittman: Drake, Little Simz, Imagine Dragons, Iron Maiden, and DJ Seinfeld

Written By Zachary Wittman, Music Columnist

While this week has come and gone rather quickly, the albums that dropped are anything but short. Some of the best and worst records of certain artists have been released, but that’s my opinion. Read on as I explore some of these lengthy drops from this past Friday!

Drake – Certified Lover Boy
Pop Rap
Released September 3, 2021
0 Globes out of 5

I’m going to be direct. This is one of the worst albums I have ever heard in my entire life. As someone who consumes media at an unhealthy rate, that statement is said from the bottom of my heart. Drake has consistently been one of, if not the single most unimpressive artist of the 21st century. “Certified Lover Boy” proves that point in every conceivable way.

Drake is probably one of the biggest artists alive right now. Take one look at his streams, and you will see that that is not a very controversial opinion. It seems Drake has reached that level of superstardom where he can release literally anything and his fans will defend him. That isn’t an exaggeration. With countless beefs with other artists and grooming allegations under his belt, Drake survives due to his fans.

Anyway, onto the album. 2018’s “Scorpion” had many complaints about being bloated and overly long. The popular hypothesis for that album’s extended runtime was that it was an attempt to manipulate streams, which isn’t entirely unrealistic. Considering how Drake was plastered onto every Spotify featured playlist from “Best Of The 80s” to “Bossa Nova Greats”, it’s safe to say there might have been some inside work done to promote that album. Now, Drake drops yet another bloated album, this time with a contender for the worst cover art in history. I remember people complaining about Drake trying to be a “hard” rapper when that wasn’t him, but “Certified Lover Boy” shows that him reverting back to being sensual and sentimental is even more embarrassing. While “Scorpion” has a tarnished reputation, it did have hits like “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What.” “CLB” has none of that.

The production is incredibly bland and flat throughout the entire project. Producer 40 sounds like he didn’t even clock in for 40 hours worth of work on this project. The sampling ironically tries to mimic the chipmunk soul that Kanye West pioneered in 2004, only to worse effect this time. Every beat on this album sounds the same, with the drums either being pushed so far back in the mix you can’t hear them or so muddled that they sound like pudding. Some of the percussion genuinely sounds like wet slices of turkey hitting a countertop. There is nothing inventive about any of the beats. The samples dampen the impact of almost every song. The interpolation of “I’m Too Sexy” in “Way 2 Sexy” is probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard for all the wrong reasons. Young Thug can’t even save that one. “No Friends In The Industry” is the closest thing to a good beat on here but Drake is the only one present to carry the vocals and the track collapses on itself due to his sheer lack of charisma or personality. “Girls Want Girls” is already being lambasted for a certain line that both fetishizes lesbians as well as acts as one of the most hilariously confusing statements to come from a straight man.

I hate to bring up the Kanye discourse, but come on. Both of them have been going at it publicly for years, and it is still going on. While Drake takes potshots towards him throughout the record, this album feels like it is trying to imitate “Donda” through the occasional gospel influence and minimal production. You might say that this is far-fetched considering “Donda” was less than a week old, but Drake did leak an unreleased song so he likely heard it before release. Speaking of which, the unreleased “Donda” cut Drake released to get back at Kanye would not only be one of the best songs on that album, but is easily better than anything on this album. Drake is wholeheartedly the worst person in the game at beefing. He continues to embarrass himself no matter what.

There is nothing else to say about this album. It is incredibly bland and boring. This listen was almost soul sucking. I almost fell asleep trying to read along with these lyrics, and it’s only 7 p.m. The only redeeming factor is Jay-Z’s verse on “Love All” and the track “Yebba’s Heartbreak” considering it doesn’t feature a single second of Drake. The sad fact is Drake is going to get little backlash for putting out something as mid as this. I implore you to do literally anything other than listen to this album. I stopped this album a few times, but my roommate stopped me and told me to finish it to “maintain journalistic integrity.” Drake, you are not a certified lover boy. You are 34 and have a child.

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
UK Hip Hop
Released September 3, 2021
5 Globes out of 5

Assessing one’s self worth is one of the most difficult things someone can do. Turning the lens inward to gaze at yourself can be scary, but it also allows us to see how we have grown as people. Little Simz tackles ego and self-respect on her fourth studio album “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.” This album is grand in every sense of the word.

This record is incredibly expansive for a hip hop album. Several songs feature full orchestration, such as the opener “Introvert,” which might be one of the best opening tracks of the year. “Rollin Stone” is an interesting take on trap due to some interesting vocal production, while “Speed” is a fast paced grime track. The track “Protect My Energy” is a flat out synth funk dance-pop song. Arguably my two favorite tracks on the album are the one two punch of “Point And Kill” and “Fear No Man”, which take heavy influence from afrobeat. While the range of styles Little Simz crosses is impressive on its own, it is even more extraordinary how she manages to make all these styles so cohesive.

Simz is in full form vocally and lyrically. Her singing is somewhat minimal on this album, but she really shines when she brings in a more melodic approach. Of course, her rapping is on another level. Her flows are buttery smooth, and her lyrics are incredibly mature. She touches on everything from family relations to near death experiences with a sophistication that feels so earnest, which is exactly what you want from a lyricist of her caliber. The production from Inflo is also out of this world. There are few albums that sound this lush, especially in the realm of rap. Every beat works to perfectly complement Simz’s voice. The jazz and orchestral influence hit the absolute perfect sweet spot for me. Even the interludes are better songs than many other cuts from her contemporaries. The album’s narrative about facing one’s self is so incredibly interesting and is handled so well.

There is so much love and unity in this album that I can’t praise it enough. Simz has had a hard battle in the music industry. Being a solo female British rapper is pretty much one of the most difficult hands you could be dealt with in the hip-hop community, and Simz shows that people need to get past their prejudices and open their minds to more artists. I’ve seen this album get showered with nothing but acclaim, so hopefully the mainstream will open up the floodgates for more voices like Simz. I hope so. This is the best rap album of the year. Check it out.

Imagine Dragons – Mercury – Act 1
Pop Rock
Released September 3, 2021
2 Globes out of 5

Oh boy. When I realized I had to review this, I prepared myself for another review akin to my AJR review. In an incredibly shocking turn of events, Imagine Dragons have surpassed my expectations. In the least shocking turn of events, this album still stinks.

Dan Reynolds continues to sign the same way he always has. That screaming that pops up in every Imagine Dragons song gets old incredibly fast. It’s used to absolutely hilarious effect in “Giants,” but Reynolds actually sounds tolerable in a few instances. For example, “Dull Knives” actually rocks out rather well and the screams feel like they fit. “It’s Ok” harkens back to the band’s early songs like “On Top Of The World” and “It’s Time” through the bouncy folk instrumentation and gang vocals. The opener “My Life” is also surprisingly good, with a buildup that actually delivers. I want to draw a parallel to Coldplay’s previous release “Everyday Life” with this album. Both are scattered records of genre-hop that followed up a commercially successful but critically marred release. Unlike the Coldplay album, “Mercury – Act 1” lacks heart, soul and enough good songs to make it a truly great release.

The production on this one isn’t too bad, but the songwriting is absolutely abysmal. Every lyric cliche you can imagine comes out, especially on tracks like “#1” and “No Time For Toxic People.” There are a bunch of other bands that sound exactly like this album, but that’s more a comment on how quiescent mainstream pop rock currently is. I don’t recommend this album, but you could do much worse.

Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
Heavy Metal
Released September 3, 2021
3 Globes out of 5

It’s always scary when classic metal acts come back with a new album. Granted, it’s only been six years since the last Iron Maiden album, but it’s been about two decades since they’ve dropped a classic. While “Senjutsu” doesn’t deliver quite like many had hoped, it isn’t as bad as it could’ve been.

Considering how surprisingly consistent the band’s lineup has been throughout the years, it is no surprise to hear that the band sounds great together. Bruce Dickinson sounds great for his age and even the weariness you can detect in his voice after singing this type of music for decades doesn’t detract from the raw power he still exudes. However, the production absolutely guts this album. The harmonies sound limp and muddy, which is a shame given the power and talent behind the mic. The guitars don’t pop and the drums are flat. For one of the most anthemic metal acts around, this is devastating. The synths they add onto this album are interesting in theory, but come off sounding tinny and hard to listen to. Even then, they are buried so far into the mix you don’t often don’t notice them.

As for the songs, these aren’t exactly the most dynamic bunch of songs the band has offered up to fans. Many of them could use a trim, as only three of the ten tracks are less than seven minutes long. The title track opens the album up rather nicely and the single “The Writing on the Wall” is a fun diversion into southern rock. “Death of the Celts” is one of the best tracks, with the ever so slight sprinkle of Celtic folk music influence coming into the riff halfway through the track giving the song an interesting flair. “The Parchment” is both a highlight and a low point, as some sections of the track are grating while others are powerful. The lyrics also aren’t as in-depth as one might hope. For a band who blends history into their music so well, they leave a lot to be desired. Maybe it’s just the cover art and title that tricked me into thinking this album would be more conceptual.

The album as a whole is often too stagnant and samey to be anything other than fine. However, it shows that the band could have some good albums if they trimmed down the tracklist to a nice tight 45 minutes or so. If anything, it’s nice to hear the gang back together again.

DJ Seinfeld – Mirrors
Progressive House
Released September 3, 2021
3.5 Globes out of 5

Now we’re grooving. While DJ Seinfeld might have a funny name, there is nothing funny about how infectious his music is. 2017’s “Time Spent Away From U” was a wonderful outsider house album that gave DJ Seinfeld a large amount of recognition. Since then, he has dropped a few EPs and singles until the release of his latest album “Mirrors”.

“Mirrors” is not the most innovative house album in existence and doesn’t quite stand up to DJ Seinfeld’s other work, but it is a very enjoyable listen. There isn’t a bad track per say, but they can often blend together. “U Already Know” is a very immediate banger, while “These Things Will Come To Be” takes a more spacious and atmospheric approach. The voicemail on the latter track is a little cliche, but it adds to the vibe of the track. DJ Seinfeld’s music often deals with heartbreak and this album is no different. There is a lot of longing in the guest vocals and samples throughout the record’s runtime. It is always nice when house music tries to make you sad while moving you to dance and the aforementioned track does just that. “I Feel Better” is a nice uplifting deep house track that feels oddly comforting.

If you like any kind of electronic or dance music, give this a listen. Even if it won’t reshape your view of house music, it is still a nice album to add to your repertoire. If you haven’t listened to this kind of music before, this might not be the worst starting point. The synths and drums are just the right amount of accessible, and the album’s pacing moves along at a brisk enough pace that just about anyone can get into this.