On Friday, July 26, after much leadup and life changes for one Chancelor Bennett, aka Chance the Rapper, he independently released his “debut” album, The Big Day. Boasting a shit-ton of songs, largely about relationships and the leadup to “the big day”—his wedding, presumably—he uses his “big day” (“debut” album release day) to focus on his maturity and where he is in life.
Chance puts a lot of his life on record in a hyper-talented yet whimsically accessible way, and his willingness to be vulnerable when it comes to his spirituality, his relationships, his joy and his journey is why he’s become such a phenom. So, of course, this album comes with lofty expectations. Does he reach them? Well...it depends. I have some thoughts about this album and Chance’s career, in general. #lehgo
1. I’ve yet to read any album reviews or analysis because I didn’t want it to color my perception of the album. What I have done, though, is talk to as many folks as possible whose musical opinions I respect, and literally short of one very pointed and strong defense of the album, 95 percent of all of the feedback I’ve received is that the album is trash, with the word “trash” being the most frequent rating. I only bring this up first because I was surprised by the universal disdain for it that I received.
While I think the album is absolutely too long and overly self-indulgent (though Chance’s self-indulgence has a very pop-accessible sound, as opposed to, say, Mos Def), it’s pretty much an on-brand album for Chance. Once fans got really excited about him talking about God on record and seeing him go all “black boy joy” for Beyoncé, he leaned all the way into that shit and kind of became a cornball. This isn’t a bad thing; I’m happy he’s happy and living his truth.
When Acid Rap dropped, corny is not a word I would have ever associated with him. But he went from there to that Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment stuff, and I don’t care what you say, “Sunday Candy” was sooooooo cotton candy. But that’s Chance. Coloring Book was dope—even if it sits waaaaaay too low in the mix—but its corny moments were overshadowed by his edgier ones. This album, The Big Day, lives MOSTLY in the cornier, friendlier, non-ironic ugly Christmas sweater in October, less social commentary, more hug-it-out-bitch version of him. And that’s not bad either—it seems to be where he is in life—but it is also not the most interesting, compelling version of him. BUT, it is also not that much of a departure from some of his other work.
2. I don’t think I explicitly said it, so let me say it here: I do not think the album is trash; I think I actually like it—I’ve literally listened to it at least 15 times nonstop since Friday—but it also sounds like I expected it to sound. As I said, it’s way too long. It’s also pretty defensive when it comes to his marriage. Where it’s strong though, I love it. For instance, the songs I like most are (in no particular order): “We Go High,” “Eternal,” “Hot Shower,” “Let’s Go on the Run,” “5 Year Plan,” “Get a Bag,” “Sun Come Down,” “Found a Good One (Single No More)” and all of the skits. But there are other songs I think he could have left off, including the album’s title track, both songs with Nicki Minaj (“Slide Around” and “Zanies and Fools”), “Do You Remember,” and frankly, the first two songs and the one with En Vogue, “I Got You (Always and Forever).” Yes, THAT En Vogue.
3. There are a few moments on the album that seem odd to me. And maybe they’re not just moments but, you know what, let’s just get into it. I think this album is sequenced terribly. The larger point of the theme of the album is him getting ready for marriage and what he and his now-wife have had to go through to get there, including the naysayers and what his family has felt about it all, etc. And that’s cool; Jay showed us with 4:44 that you can do a very mature album and have it be received well. Thing is, because of how idiosyncratic Chance is, it’s important to sequence things well. I think that’s where he went wrong in how the album was initially received because it starts off, well, not good. Not to say that the song, “All Day Long” isn’t good, but it shouldn’t have been the opening song. Personally, I think “5 Year Plan” or “We Go High” should have opened the album.
If he started with either of those and dropped the first skit, “Photo Ops” and then “All Day Long” (if it has to be kept), I think it sounds different as an album. You get the Chance you love (“We Go High”) with the one you appreciate.
Which brings up another interesting point: Nicki Minaj’s voice is the last voice you hear on the album. That felt so weird to me. I can’t even say why and I’m not going to do the research to see how many folks’ albums end with another person’s voice. But for such a personal album, it seems like Chance should be the end. It’s one of those things that keeps ticking at me even if it’s hypercritical. I did say both Nicki songs needed to be cut, but I do like “Slide Around”; it just feels unnecessary.
4. The features list is impressive, especially on the skits—John Witherspoon, Keith David, Jackée Harry and Cree Summer—and also curious. But it speaks to folks going from “rappers” to artists and reaching out to work with any and everybody who can help them achieve their sound. To me, it mostly works, even if I don’t think the songs are necessary on the album. Also, there are too many features to name so you gon’ have to Google that shit. Shouts to Megan Thee Stallion and the use of the Brandy “I Wanna Be Down” sample on “Ballin Flossin.”
5. A quick note on the album being too long: It clocks in at an hour and 17 minutes. I get the impression here that I get with Spike Lee films: The subject matter is so timely that if he doesn’t get it off here, there will be no place for it on other albums, so he had to include everything, which is why the album feels bloated and like he needed an editor to cut it down by like six songs.
6. “Found a Good One (Single No More)” is absolutely a new canon wedding song. It’s upbeat and fun to sing along to (once more people become aware of it) and it’s a perfect stunt song for IG videos and social media once you actually tie the knot. This was a smart play for longevity. It might have been specifically made for this purpose but that’s not a bad marketing ploy. And I mean, the album is a wedding/marriage album so, there you go. And the Chicago House breakdown at the end GOES.
7. I put “debut” album in quotes several times in the first paragraph. Chance, cut the shit. This album isn’t your debut. Your last “mixtape,” Coloring Book, won Grammys. And they’re all original works. But do you, hombre. I have no idea why folks even try to distinguish between this shit anymore when folks’ entry points for access are all the same places. Coloring Book dropped on Apple Music. Acid Rap (minus “Juice”—I’m VERY sad about that omission) and 10 Day are finally available on streaming services. They’re all studio albums, fam.