Imagine you are in a nightclub.
This does not have to be a big, lavish nightclub by any means. You have had what you will look back on with a lack of blood sugar, a fairly average evening. You were there, posed for photos holding a stuffed/inflatable raccoon of some sort, you danced, you left a couple of hours before closing time.
However, at gone 5am, after you and all the semi-sensible people have left, the lights come up, it’s time to go home. Most accept this, blinkered and slightly ashamed they have made it to this very raw and altogether too bright Witching Hour. Yet, in the corner, right in front of an exasperated DJ, there is one guy, a guy who you would have faintly remembered trying to get a Mexican wave started during the 4th play of Despacito, pleading with the music man to keep going, to keep pointlessly limping on, with no purpose or even entertainment to extract from this experience.
This guy is DJ Khaled’s new album; Grateful.
Miami Snapchat king Khaled Khaled is back with his 10th studio album. If you are unaware with the DJ’s work, it is more one of a musical recruitment executive than anything definable in terms of musical talent. The vocals, production, and ideas spawn from other artists, with only the faintest of touches and brash ad-libs added to attach Khaled’s brand to his work like a messy watermark on a school photo of your child. Khaled’s job, it seems, is merely to bring the gang together through him seeming knowing anybody in music.
You know that really untalented manager you have at work that’s only quality seems to be that they get on with everybody, but has inexplicably brownnosed their way to a paycheque twice the size of yours? That guy is DJ Khaled.
However, things were meant to be slightly different this time. A long-overdue improvement of sorts in 2016’s Major Key, which contained genuinely great moments such as Holy Key, Jermaine’s Interlude & Nas Album Done, is almost instantly forgotten in what is a largely painful hour and half, that ends in such insipidness I actually forgot I was even listening to it on my first listen through.
The highlights need mentioning, few and far between as they are. Beyonce is bouncy enough on Shining, a beat that has slightly dated in the few months it has been available in this albums buildup, but still has enough natural charm to keep it in roatation. A rare Jay Z verse is also something to enjoy, of course, with his 14 mentions to his (at the time) upcoming twins bring the song into corny territory, but on the surface at least still enjoyable.
The best songs on this album undoubtedly are so because of Rihanna’s and Alicia Keys very impressive performances on Wild Thoughts and Nobody respectively. Both riding their beat with a flair and standout style that is so hard to find on a Khaled album such as this, and where Bryson Tiller might have been better suited to another song to let a different artist really own his section of the song, Nicki Minaj makes Nobody a contest between two powerful female icons that is definitely at least a debate to choose the victor.
Even I’m The One, Khaleds traditional posse hit, is better when compared to it’s peers on previous albums from Khaled. Lil Wayne’s autotune-drowned verse apart, the song is relatively fun enough from each respective artist, while of course making all the concessions it needs to to be a top 40 smash hit.
DJ Khaled albums always suffer hugely in the second half, and I will get to that in detail, but for both Drake and Nas to appear on a DJ Khaled album only a year after they both had commercial success with their songs on Holy Key and produce something so lacklustre and downright boring in To The Max and It’s Secured suffocates what little of this album is in any way decent. When even DJ Khaled seems to know it’s a flop (you seen To The Max anywhere? At all? It’s not even on Spotify yet), it’s probably time to call those attempts an L. It’s a shame, because we have seen how their respective talents can be crowbarred in the variety of Khaled beats.
Nothing will compare to the sheer, brazen awfulness of I Love You So Much, though. Perhaps nothing will at all this year. Chance the Rapper has gone full Chance the Rapper, putting his vocals on a song that would be played in the credits of a shitty remake of Daddy Day Care, pathetically lazy A-B-C verse and all. We should all be very worried about Chance 4 at this rate.
Beyond the solid enough production of Don’t Quit (clearly just a Calvin Harris throwaway from his upcoming album), the second half of Grateful becomes a different animal. An animal that needs taking out quietly and put down. Songs come and go with no discernible qualities whatsoever, and the complete barrage of Future makes it almost difficult to tell where they start and end.
Pusha T provides a solid enough attempt on Good Man and it would have been better placed higher up within the track list to truly separate it from the dirge, such as the awful, whiny beats that I Can’t Even Lie and That Range Rover Came With Steps provide.
I would go into detail explaining how the rest of the songs on this album I haven’t mentioned are awful, but I feel the best advice I can give you is to just not listen to them. They’re not even bad in the sense that they’re funny to go find and laugh at, it’s that they add so absolutely little to your life that these songs were better off never existing in the first place.
After Holy Key, I’m not annoyed that Grateful is terrible, I’m annoyed at myself that I had expectations for it to be anything but. A truly irritating return to form from everyone’s favourite Miami mogul.