RL Grime – Nova (Album Review)

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As I grow older the disconnect I feel with the generation below my own grows wider and wider. It was hard to accept at first, I am only 24-years-old after all, but after hearing a younger cousin talk about how much time she and her friends spend watching slime videos on Instagam it was hard to not feel like an outsider. In terms of the music world, this is how I’ve always viewed the fanatic love of EDM.

On the surface I sort of get it, the goofy fun of artists like Skrillex and Deadmau5 was undeniable and with a few drinks I could start to get into the general vibe the music required. But as the years has gone on it just feels like an entirely different world. Gone is the fun, replaced instead by blown out bass and overly cheese vocal passages.

RL Grime (Henry Steinway) used to be a outlier in the EDM world – since 2013 the 23-year-old producer has found a sweet spot between James Blake and TNGHT. But it’s been four years since his release, Void, and while in some respect it’s nice to hear from Steinway again, his newest project Nova is a sad showcase for modern day EDM.

In Steinway’s absence artists like The Chainsmokers and Calvin Harris has taken up the EDM mantel and have reshaped the sound of the entire genre. Sadly, instead of going his own path like what drew me to him in the past Steinway seems to be playing catch up.

This is most obvious on Nova’s many vocal guests that take one to many pages from The Chainsmokers playbook of painful cliché lyricism. Topics of note include partying, moving on from heartbreak, and falling in love which is fine especially since Steinway seems to be aiming his music for a teenage audience that might really connect with those themes.

But what is shameful is how much credit Steinway and his guests give his audience. Because at the very core of most of these songs is nothing to grasp onto. Be it Freya Ridings on ‘Shrine’ or 24hrs on ‘UCLA’ there is nothing of note to what they’re saying.

Sure, there is some expectations, like Chief Keef and Joji who sound absolutely insane on ‘OMG’ or Ty Dolla $ign’s emotive delivery on ‘Take It Away’, but on the whole the guests on Nova feel either phoned in or outright bad.

The music behind these guests might be enough to save it on most albums, but Steinway sound now feels dated at best. The buildups are completely predicable, to the point where you would rather just skip to the drop and avoid the downtime. Songs like ‘Pressure’ and ‘Rainer’ especiaily take way to long to get going with the former being an almost ambient track until out of nowhere the drop comes in and shakes you from your nap.

In other tracks the songs take on a very cookie cutter Top-40 vibes, sounding beyond the work of someone who use to be an innovator. The prime for radio ‘Light Me Up’ with it’s Miguel guest appearance sounds way to close to ‘The Middle’ to be unique. And ‘Undo’ with Jeremih sounds like two different tracks stitched together with absolutely no cohesion between them.

It all just leads to the album being a forgettable slog that left me feeling more depressed than anything else. But it all goes back to my first point; I don’t think this music is made for me. It’s meant for loud speakers in a field while a thousand young people bob up and down. I only wish there was something more to it, some kind of added depth to make these songs into something more.

Nova is out now via WeDidIt