Just over a year ago, 21-year-old Canadian vocalist PARTYNEXTDOOR became the first artist to emerge from OVO Sound—a Warner-parented imprint overseen by Drake and longtime producer/engineer Noah “40” Shebib—with his debut EP-length effort, PARTYNEXTDOOR.
Though it only ran twenty-eight minutes, it was enough to exhibit how he’d earned this platform—his sonorous, darkly-textured production and moody, melodic vocals were immediately reminiscent of the Toronto R&B sound developing at the hands of his OVO execs and The Weeknd (who’d previously earned their support and praise as a kind of informal label affiliate).
One year later, PND is back with his first full-fledged effort, which runs at almost twice the length, and again clings to his penchant for down-tempo production, brooding, airy synths and direct, oft-sexual lyrics. Even when his words merely scratch the surface and supply little resonance, though, the beats are so consistently rich and emotive that after a full listen you feel as though his work was much heavier on substance and shared sentiments than was actually the case. It’s clear from the consistency of the production, and the fact that he’s had a hand in every song on his past two projects (and even some others—most notably, Drake’s “Days in the East”), that being multitalented in this way isn’t just an as asset for PARTYNEXTDOOR—it’s an absolute necessity.
As a vocalist, PND just isn’t as frequently captivating. He spends the vast majority of his airtime making raunchy pleads to women and pronouncing that he’s better than the rest—most often in a sexual context. While his subject matter hasn’t changed since the original, the added length draws more attention to his writing this time around, and as the project progresses, it lags at times and brings an air of monotony. He also more consistently sounds diluted and distorted here, with his vocals often sifting into the songs’ complex instrumentation, subdued beneath the dark timbres of the synths.
On his debut, a number of songs (“Right Now,” “Wild Bitches”) treated the listener to a decidedly more charismatic and assertive PND, whose intensity was wildly welcome on a project that was so often more restrained. That kind of energy is largely absent over this forty-five minute set, save for the Drake-assisted “Recognize,” a rare glimpse at PND’s emphatic vocal abilities that command the listener’s attention regardless of the shallow subject material. The contrast here is further exemplified when Drake shows up around the 4:00 mark, and—while his verse isn’t quite as memorable as his on last year’s “Over Here”—his magnetism as a performer is much more palpable than normal.
Maybe I’ve become too accustomed to this period in music where artists have become so accessible and transparent, as well as increasingly introspective, but when an artist fails to be this way it really makes itself known on an album. The duration of PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO fully legitimizes PND as an obvious young production phenom—much of his work could pass for early drafts of 40’s—but it also sheds increased light on his shortcomings as an artist.
3 out of 5
You can purchase PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO on Amazon.