Jaden Smith’s days of writing ‘woke’ tweets may be over, but his arrogant and pretentious attitude still persists on the overly ambitious SYRE.
As the son of Will Smith, Jaden Smith was born famous, but he only became a household name when his acting career took off as a young teenager, and he started his infamous Twitter account. He’s been releasing some music for the past few years, but the release of SYRE marks Smith’s commitment to a music career. To this day Smith is still best known as a ‘fake-deep teenager’ because of his pretentious pseudo-profound tweets. Despite Jaden’s recent efforts to rebrand himself, in his first full-length rap record he still comes across as he did in his ‘deep’ tweets: as a young, naïve teenager who craves recognition and respect. SYRE’s sub-title is ‘a beautiful confusion’ (perhaps trying to invoke Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy); he certainly succeeds in making a confusing album, but not necessarily a beautiful one.
SYRE is about Jaden Smith’s lack of direction in the face of youth and opportunity – this can be seen in the cover art, with an unmoving Jaden Smith staring at the vast and colourful expanse. It’s a great theme with loads of potential, and it’s a perfect representation of Smith’s current position in life. Should he follow in the footsteps of his father and focus on acting, with a small music career? Or should he become as multifaceted as Donald Glover? If SYRE were a film it would have a fantastic trailer, but the film itself would be long, contrived and aimless. This would be easier to overlook, considering the album’s fantastic production and bangers like Falcon and George Jeff, if only Jaden didn’t spend so many of his verses trying to hype himself up. He tries to convince his audience that SYRE is his magnum opus, constantly seeking to impress us by addressing big-boy topics like religion, race and depression – the brevity and frivolity of these remarks just shows how out of depth Smith is. He makes constant allusions to greater musicians like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean, as if he were even on the same playing field as them, and narcissism pollutes his music, especially in the song Icon, whose hook “I am just an icon living” is among the most uninspired moments on the record.
SYRE is about a lack of direction and its content is fittingly disorganised – Jaden Smith would have you believe that this was intentional, and tries to shove some half-baked conceptual aspect into the album.
Smith tries to construct a coherent album while juggling short, hip-hop/trap tracks along with long, James Blake-esque ballads. This may be a great representation of Smith’s current position of indecisiveness, but nonetheless it simply doesn’t work in a conceptual album. SYRE feels like a playlist rather than an album, except Smith tried to inject some direction into the chaos last minute with a vague sub-plot about Syre, and the B-L-U-E opening tracks. The B-L-U-E opening is one of the better parts of the record, the idea of having the ‘song’ divided into four parts is probably the only truly original and daring concept on the album. The segment is produced by Lido, known for his collaborations with Chance the Rapper and Halsey, and it shows: the production is luscious and diverse. However, Smith’s muddled verses and mediocre delivery let the segment down, as well as the frustratingly frequent beat-switches that leave the listener feeling unsatisfied. Additionally, B-L-U-E is supposed to be about why Jaden’s been feeling blue, but he inexplicably keeps boasting by comparing himself to Jimi Hendrix and Martin Luther King Jr., of all people.
SYRE is full of contradictions: it’s supposed to be about a lost young man, yet it’s full of egotistical propaganda; the beginning and end of the album seem very conceptual and directed, but the main body feels much more disjointed; the album’s main influences are hip-hop and R&B masterpieces, but it doesn’t live up to any of them – it’s as if SYRE is trying to be everything at once. With a seventy-minute runtime, a strange narrative, and uninspired verses, SYRE is hard to listen to all the way through. Many of the songs overstay their welcome too, especially Lost Boy, which simply lacks the complexity of West’s Runaway or Lamar’s FEAR. To justify being nine minutes long – the unnecessary length of these tracks is a testament to Smith’s arrogance. Jaden Smith’s preachy, egotistical, uneducated wokeness dooms SYRE – and unfortunately its top-shelf production can’t save it.