Album Review: Astroworld

Posted on Aug 23 2018 - 8:20am by Blake Alsup

Photo Courtesy: Travis Scott’s Twitter

Named for the Six Flags AstroWorld amusement park in Houston, Travis Scott’s third studio album, “Astroworld,” was released on Aug. 3.

Scott started making music after his favorite childhood theme park closed down in 2005. His 59-minute “Astroworld,” which flows like a roller coaster, is an appropriate homage.

The album jolts to a start with “Stargazing,” a drug ballad driven by trap drums. Lines such as “And it ain’t a mosh pit if ain’t no injuries / Got ‘em stage divin’ out the nose bleeds” capture the energy of his live shows.

The album’s momentum steadily climbs with “Carousel,” which features Frank Ocean, before going completely off the rails with crazy flows and production on “Sicko Mode,” a three-part Big Hawk, Drake and Swae Lee-assisted track.

On the album’s best track, “Stop Trying to Be God,” Scott is accompanied by a legendary cast of features, which include Kid Cudi humming, James Blake singing and Stevie Wonder playing harmonica. This song has it all, from its features to its flow to its subject matter.

“’Cause they did not create commandments / When you hustle, always make it fancy / The signal’s far from what you can be / ‘Cause air traffic controls the landing,” Travis raps as he leads into the chorus, telling listeners to stop trying to control every aspect of their existence and using air traffic control as a comparison to the way God works in people’s lives.

This roller coaster of an album continues to go through several loops, from high-energy rager “No Bystanders” to the hazy, psychedelic “Skeletons” (produced by Kevin Parker from Tame Impala) and “Wake Up,” in which Travis raps about a lucid dream over a looped guitar riff. The latter two songs feature frequent collaborator The Weeknd, who has been featured on all of Travis’ studio albums.

“Astroworld” hits a slump in the middle of the record with two weaker tracks, “5% Tint” and “NC-17.”

The only other weak spot on the album is toward the end, on the track “Who? What!” featuring Quavo and Takeoff. It feels like a leftover from Scott’s less-than-stellar 2017 collab album with Quavo, “Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho.”

It’s not that this song is bad. But, at this point, it’s just boring because we’ve heard so much of their same flow, features and adlibs before.

But things quickly pick up again with “Astrothunder” as the album approaches its final peak. It’s the most simple song on the album lyrically, but it has a melody and chorus that will stick with you.

On “Yosemite,” Travis and Gunna trade verses over a guitar- and flute-laden beat that almost has a country vibe, beginning the momentous descent to the end.

“Can’t Stop” is another late-album standout. With a line like “Gang too wavy, move like Navy Seals,” a song can’t be bad, right? Don Toliver, an up-and-coming rapper out of Houston whose vocals are reminiscent of Akon’s, makes a sizeable contribution to the track, rapping and singing for more than half of the song’s duration.

The only previously heard single on the album is “Butterfly Effect,” released in early 2017. It still goes as hard as it ever has. I saw Travis perform this song live at a Halloween warehouse party in the Bronx, and he played the song three times in a row while flying above the crowd on an animatronic eagle.

This song will never not be hype.

Travis raps about experiences he’s had in his home city of Houston on the penultimate track, “Houstonfornication,” which references the city’s world-renowned space center.

On the album’s closer, “Coffee Bean,” Travis is at his most vulnerable, rapping about the ups and downs of his relationship with Kylie Jenner, his girlfriend and the mother to his daughter, over a laid back string ensemble-assisted instrumental.

As the final orchestral notes play and the sound of Travis’ melodic pitched-down groans fade, the ride slows to a stop, the safety bars are lifted and fans are free to press play and ride again.

I give “Astroworld” a 9 out of 10 rating. The album as a whole is great, and I feel like even the lackluster songs will grow on me with repeated listens. “Astroworld,” Scott’s magnum opus, is the follow-up that 2015’s “Rodeo” deserves and everything I wish 2016’s “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight” had been.