Hard-hitting songs from new album “Cruel Summer” stagnated by early single releases

Tim Durr, Rocket Contributor
September 20, 2012

When it comes to the entertainment industry, summer is the time of year for major hits and albums to be released.

Now that summer is nearly over, what was the best album this season?

Hold on, I’m going to let you finish, but Kanye West & his G.O.O.D. Music label had the best album of the summer – “Cruel Summer.”

That’s at least what Kanye would want you to believe. After several listens, I think Kanye might be on to something.

The production on “Cruel Summer” is in the same realm that Kanye reached with his latest solo album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” The progression of the album from the R. Kelly featured intro, “To the World” through the next to last track “Bliss” has a logical progression and doesn’t clash styles.

One of the main things that Kanye introduced with “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was the use of strings, most notably the harp, and opera sounding melodies that served as hooks or background ambience.

Those elements carry through many songs throughout the album, especially in the single, “Clique,” which is the second track and features Big Sean and Jay-Z.

The third song, “Mercy,” which released before the summer even started, does build up the intensity from the first two tracks, but due to how old it is, I usually skip it.

After listening to (or skipping) “Mercy,” my favorite track on the album comes next. “New God Flow,” which released over the middle of the summer, features Pusha T and Kanye. An additional verse was added by rapper Ghostface Killah for the official version that released with the album, and was exactly what was needed to make the track fresh again for anyone who listened to it before.

After the heavenly  beat of “New God Flow” ends, “The Morning” adds some deeper bass hits for the verses but still plays off of many elements in “New God Flow” and has a very melodic feel in the chorus.

“The Morning” is also the only track which features rapper Common, who was one of the three original members of G.O.O.D Music along with Kanye and John Legend.

The fact that Common is only featured on one song shows how the label has moved away from social consciousness and the soulful styles of Common and John Legend to mainstream heavy artists like 2 Chainz, who has three features on the album.

Leave all the features behind for the sixth track of the album, though. Kanye steals the spotlight with a solo performance titled, “Cold.” The track was originally titled “Theraflu” but the cold medicine didn’t want their brand to be a rap song so Kanye changed it to “Way Too Cold” and then dropped off the first two words.

“Cold” is a hard hitting rap track that features clever Kanye lines, along with plenty of self indulgence of Kanye’s greatness.

The problem with “Cold,” like many other tracks on this album, is that these songs released, either purposefully or incidentally, months and weeks ago.

That’s honestly my main problem that I have with the album. I’ve heard too many of these songs over the summer already. I don’t want to have to pay $10 for seven new tracks that I haven’t been listening to for months.

The second half of the album after “Cold” has tracks that weren’t released early, minus the remix of Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like,” which feels like a bonus track at the end and doesn’t really fit into the flow of the album.

The five tracks between “Cold” and “Don’t Like” don’t feature Kanye on a verse and showcase many of the up-and-coming G.O.O.D. Music signees like CyHi and Teyana Taylor.

Also, John Legend and Malik Yusef (formerly known as Mos Def) both find their spots on the album. Yusef has a very rhythmic and drawn out verse on “Sin City” where he emphasizes words that rhyme with sin city and his verse serves as the standout vocals on the song.

Between “Sin City,” which has John Legend singing the chorus, and “Bliss,” which has no rapping and only singing from Legend and Taylor, is “The One,” which is Big Sean’s third feature and a solo song by Kid Cudi, titled “Creepers.”

“Creepers” is Cudi’s only feature on the album other than back-up vocals on “The Morning,” and is one of my favorite songs of the album.

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