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Bausa - Powerbausa (Review)Martin_Canine BAUSA
Last year, Bausa’s chart topping hit Was du Liebe nennst turned the German hip hop scene upside down, and furthermore left its traces on the entire pop music world of the country. The album spent nine weeks on top of the charts from October 2017 to January 2018, making it the fourth successful song of the year it first entered the number one spot in that respect, behind Despacito and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You and Perfect, staying there for six weeks longer than the fifth longest staying number one songs (a tie between Axwell Λ Ingrosso’s infectious club pop song More Than You Know and Kay One’s pseudo-Latino summer hit Señorita). It went double platinum so far, and is banging all over the radio. It sure was one of the songs that dominated the music landscape of 2017, and will probably stay for even longer - something that can't be said for no many other songs that are put in the hip hop section (it’s really an album genre and barely tops the charts nowadays, and if so, only for a week). How did it became so huge? Bausa is a newcomer that no one has heard of before.
Well, I was astounded myself for quite some time. The mix of rapping and singing that Drake or Fetty Wap did in the US haven’t been adapted by a big rapper in this very fashion before (though Sido did something similar in 2008 with Carmen, back then, the genre and the content were entirely different). But usually, in Germany, trends don’t come out of nowhere, they slowly evolve, so it'd be baffling if a new sound by a not really famous artist immediately hits the top of the charts. But then a very close German friend of mine gave me a train of thought of why it appealed to so many people. Germany’s club culture is much bigger than Austria’s, and so I only understood half of the song’s appeal. The overall topic is that Bausa meets a girl in a club and begs her to give him “fake love”, which I understood simply as a tame sexual tension. But actually, it’s deeper. It’s about a lonely person who wants to drown his sorrow by spending his night with a woman who he begs to pretend to love him (one line in the chorus that translates to “help me to forget what was” supports this theory). Of course, it’s light hearted and does have sexual references, but it’s probably so big because many people who go to clubs to have a good time after a separation, death of a dear, depression or whatever negative experience, could identify with Bausa’s pleas for getting some love, even though it’s not real. Apart from the fact it's a damn catchy hip hop / pop hybrid.
Now Powerbausa comes along containing 9 more brand new songs and two short musical skits - and of course Bausa's number one hit song. Surprisingly, it was released only digitally, which might sound normal to Americans of the 2010s, with big artists like Kanye West, Drake or Future having been distributing their music as downloads or streaming before and succeeding, but in a country where CDs are by far the most popular way of getting music, especially in hip hop music where it became the norm to release huge expensive deluxe box sets, this is commercial suicide. Naturally, the album only peaked at number 16. That'd be quite good for a huge country as the US, but for a German rapper, this is disappointing, especially when he managed to have one of the biggest songs of the year.
Powerbausa is one hella uneven record, not simply in terms of quality, but with the tracks completely lacking any common vision. You can’t be in the right mood for such a record, as the subgenres of hip hop and pop are all over the place on the individual songs. The opening track, Stoff, is one of the strongest tunes on the record, it’s a pretty sick trap blaster with aggressive clear vocals in the verses and a slurry Future-esque autotune chorus. It’s atmospheric, dark, and quite the opposite of Was du Liebe nennst. You wouldn’t recognize it’s the same artist. “Could be I got a disability / I am brain damaged a la Kim Jong Un”, he mumbles on the next track Unterwegs, an angsty song that surprisingly continues the tone of the first song. At this point, you expect the album to remain such a dark cyber-ish trap effort, but believe me, it’s the only two tracks that are remotely similar.
Szenen im Hotel is a disturbing sex song about containing masochistic, coke snorting women who demand to be beaten, among other situations. It’s not really misogynic, it dwells more into the psyche behind such a scene, trying to depict how dark and twisted the anonymous meetings behind closed doors can get. After a 30 second musical skit, his chart topper follows, and the transition of the challenging, insane, horrorcore-esque Szenen to the cheerful, catchy radio pop of Liebe feels like switching from a Lars von Trier film to a Disney film of their renaissance era. It’s both great and has meaning behind it, but they’re on opposite poles - and the average listener/viewer of the latter will likely be freaked out by the first.
Belle Etage 2.0 copies the elegant, laid back luxury rap of Shindy, embracing the classy, fancy lifestyles, and the drugs that come along with it. At a 1:43 duration, the second musical skit, Pillen im Club, is almost a full song. And it’s EDM that has a 90s rave feeling and humorous lyrics. 7 tracks into the album and it already is the single most inconsistent record in all of hip hop.
In Berlin is anarchic, almost punk-ish, with Bausa and guest artist Nura almost screaming into the mic at a level of the outro of Ylvis’ Someone Like Me. “All I want is to destroy!”, the shout. They did, it’s a highlight of the album. But guess what follows next? If you guessed a relaxed ballad, you are right - in its premise, Gib mir bös is similar to Was du Liebe nennst, but not quite as catchy, much slower and more indie in its feel. It’s followed by FML, which sounds like a 2000s Cher clone singing over the instrumental of an 80s synth pop song by Laura Branigan. What would usually be a compliment is so heavily out of place on here I can’t quite enjoy it the way I would on a pop album. After the Drake clone Was kostet mich deine Liebe, the album ends with the art pop / trip hop-like Kleines Rad that sounds even less like it belongs on here than any other song because it’s the only track that has absolutely no trap elements.
Bausa is not bad at all of this. He always gives fine performances throughout, and the lyrics have much more depth than other similarly themed ones, and on the album’s peaks, such as the big smash hit Was du Liebe nennst, he leaves a big impression - although not nearly often enough, many songs are decent but not spectacular. But he and his producers have absolutely no idea of how a premise works. Of course, all songs shouldn’t sound exactly the same and I’m not demanding a concept album, but at least you should try not to do 180 degree turn after each track, it destroys the mood and keeps the songs from having full impact. Albums like this show how much a tracklist can affect the listening enjoyment of individual tunes. There are albums that have a variety of different influences and genres, but they usually feel like an odyssey through different sounds - there’s something connecting them. Powerbausa on the other hand feels like a badly crafted playlist consisting of random hip hop songs from all across the different scenes, movements and subgenres, without much thought given to why you would include them. He's got an outstanding one-in-a-million hit on his hands. Unfortunately, the album isn't similarly revolutionary.