From his viral XXL Freshman freestyle to his controversial Instagram posts and music videos featuring slipknots and little kids hanging themselves, XXXtentacion is an artist that has a lot to say and gives the media a lot to talk about.
XXXtentacion’s new album “?” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 for the week of March 31, selling 131,000 album-equivalent units. The album no doubt received a warm welcome, and for good reason, as it’s arguably the controversial artist’s strongest effort so far.
The album bets on experimentation and an alternative sound, including songs that range from Latin music to screamo.
X introduces the album with a vocal track called “Introduction (instructions),” in which he warns listeners that it is imperative for them to walk into the album with an open mind.
“If you don’t listen to the alternative sound and you’ve never been into the alternative sound and have not been open to trying different things, open your mind before you listen to this album,” X says in the first track.
With this album, X said listeners can find comfort and discomfort in the album at the same time.
“So, with this project, again, you’re entering my mind, feeling my insanity, feeling my genius, my energy. Enjoy,” X said.
With the second track, “ALONE, PART 3,” we encounter a more intimate and musically appealing sound than those of previous albums.
With an acoustic guitar instrumental and X’s surprisingly great singing skills, the song “ALONE, PART 3,” conveys raw emotion with the simplicity of its instrumental and X’s melancholic voice. The lyrics complement the song’s feel, too, breaking with the violence and darker beats of its ancestors: “Gave my love a piece of me/ She put my heart beneath her feet/ I turned and left, I question, ‘What’s my worth?’”
Following the overall theme of depression and lost lovers, the song “SAD!” is by far the catchiest song we encounter on “?”
Starting with a simple electronic beat, “SAD!” brims with an addictive melody that will get stuck in your head. Its lyrics and hook — “I am sad, I know yeah, I am sad I know yeah” — are remarkably catchy.
X takes even greater risks on “I don’t even speak Spanish lol,” feat Rio Santana, Judah and Carlos Andres.
On this track, X went for a completely different style, musical genre and even language.
With a Latin dance beat and sensual Spanish lyrics that translate to “I know that your body asks for heat/ And I know you can feel it/ The night turns you on,” the song sounds like something an artist like Enrique Iglesias or Pitbull would sing.
Two tracks later, though, X goes from Pitbull to full-on Marilyn Manson on “Schizophrenia,” with an eerie guitar instrumental that suddenly collides with frenetic drums and screams.
In the track, X emulates what he imagines schizophrenia feels like, whispering in tormenting voices, “Voices in your, voices in your, voices in your head/ Those who tryna drive you mad/ And make it all, make it all wild/ Wild.”
“Schizophrenia” is an interesting but relevant track to include on “?” As the introduction announced, X would invite listeners into his mind on this album, and with this track, X successfully immerses people in his tormented mind.
Songs like “Moonlight” and “NUMB” are also worth mentioning, as they’re both songs on which X’s musical evolution is palpable. With emotional and romantic lyrics and clear alternative electronic sounds, both tracks break completely with the violent and brutal beats and lyrics from earlier songs from his career like “Look at Me!” and “Gospel.”
“?” is surely a risky album. Including songs that are opposites of each other, X’s will to experiment and showcase his versatility is remarkable. He surprises listeners with emotional, talented singing and catchy songs that are like nothing X has written before. I can definitely say this is the best album XXXtentacion has written so far. Combining its sonic versatility with measured artistic purpose and presentation, the songs follow a common theme but express it in different and surprising ways.