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‘Cruel Summer’ lacks consistency, underwhelms

By Charles Louis Dominguez ’14

G.O.O.D. Music – “Cruel Summer”
6 out of 10

Every once in a while an album is released amidst an almost unbelievable amount of hype.

Chances are that Kanye West released that album.

Every project he has attached himself to – from 2004’s “The College Dropout” to 2011’s collaboration with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne” – has stopped the music industry in its tracks as we all stare at its supposed glory.

His near constant reinvention of his sound, as well as his image, has kept him consistently relevant during a time that is characterized by temporary fame.

Although his antics often overshadow the music that he makes, it is West’s innovation and significance within the industry that has earned him his tenure in pop culture.

“Cruel Summer,” West’s latest project, is a compilation album meant to showcase artists currently signed to his “G.O.O.D. Music” label.

While West’s work generally lives up to or exceeds expectations, “Cruel Summer” is the perfect example of a mixed bag.

The strength of this collective ultimately ends up being one of its greatest weaknesses: diversity.

G.O.O.D. Music encompasses artists who cross a variety of genres and styles, ranging from John Legend to Pusha-T.

While this fact alone would make for a toss-up of an album, “Cruel Summer” also boasts material from artists not signed to G.O.O.D. Music, with verses from the likes of Jay-Z and 2chainz as well as production assistance from Hudson Mohawke.

Accordingly, “Cruel Summer” travels through a number of moods and noises, some more favorably than others.

The album is notable for its sheer amount of sounds.

With a variety of brilliant beats, lyrics and guilty pleasures, it comes off feeling as though it just missed the mark, not fully living up to its potential.

A number of the features on “Cruel Summer” feel lazy or contrived, a saddening fact given that some of the label’s more notable acts, like Q-Tip and Mos Def, are nowhere to be found.

Despite all of my complaints, “Cruel Summer” is not without redeeming qualities.

Tracks like “Mercy,” “New God Flow” and “Clique,” with their detailed instrumentals and tight verses, are perfect examples of the potential strength of collectives like G.O.O.D. Music.

The issue that I take with these tracks, however, is that they were all available for listening prior to “Cruel Summer’s” release date.

With the best tracks already out as singles, it’s difficult to be anything but underwhelmed by “Cruel Summer’s” nine remaining songs.

Although they may not live up to the quality of the singles, most of these songs are very listenable and, in the right atmosphere, enjoyable.

With fantastic production and diverse instrumentation, no one track is without something to keep it at least bearable.

“Cruel Summer” is best enjoyed through a quality pair of speakers in the company of a few close-knit friends.

There is a certain feeling of comradery that can only be experienced by belting the chorus of “Mercy” in a car packed with some of your closest mates.

So hey, maybe it isn’t all that bad.

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