Fetty Wap - Bruce Wayne (Review)

Martin_Canine
FETTY WAP
Bruce Wayne
★★☆☆☆

The way it looks now, Fetty Wap is going to remain a one hit wonder. In and of itself, that doesn’t say much about his songs’ quality, but in this case, it’s the stereotypical kind of one hit wonder with one outstanding song and little else to offer.

In a way, he was a few years ahead of his time when he dropped Trap Queen in early 2014, when trap just hinted at singing with artists like Drake, while there wasn’t such a trend for crossovers of genres and style yet. It peaked at number 2 on the American charts, was certified seven times platinum and appeared on many best lists of both 2014 and 2015 (it was however completely unknown in Austria and failed to enter the charts, by the way). Although I personally wasn’t a fan of the song (I thought it tried too hard to be an earworm, had a basic beat and a weak flow), I can see why it was liked, and why many found it to be infectious. But it already showed the major problem with Fetty Wap: apart from the melody, there was little appealing about his music. And unfortunately, it fully shows on Bruce Wayne.

In times where artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Future or Migos perfected the interplay of music and vocals in hip hop, blending together to create a gripping atmosphere and/or entertainment, Wap’s voice often feels like recorded on a completely different beat than it ultimately landed on. Sometimes, it’s straightforward inharmonious, as on Look at Me, that sounds suspiciously improvised considering how the flow just barely varies from line to line. Most of the time the voice feels clumsily jammed onto the instrumental, with little sensitivity for mood and emotion. All For You is an attempt at an RnB ballad, but Wap lacks any feeling in his vocal delivery. It’s just bawled loudly, not even in a sense that he’s overwhelmed by what he sings about, but that it feels as if the studio played the beat too loud and he needed to sing this strained to hear himself. There’s also a constant change in technique, from rapping to singing to mumbling, which could actually add variety to the sound, but seems to appear at random. In fact, Fetty Wap is best at rapping, which he shows at the highlight of the record: the title track. It has a decent flow and a good beat. It’s nothing memorable, but it’s absolutely okay.

Fetty Wap desperately needs some lessons from Drake in pace, atmosphere and most of all, feeling. And if the melodic crooning of Drizzy too far fetched: listen to Lil Uzi Vert or XXXTentacion. They don’t have the greatest singing voices either, but they truly feel every word they share on the mic. Actually, the imperfections in their voices make it all the more intense. Sadly, the only song on which Fetty Wap shows a certain mood in his voice is Westin’, but the music and melody doesn’t change in the slightest for 3 minutes. It just repeats line after line after line.

There’s also a huge problem with the mixing and mastering of the ad libs that increases the impression of lacking sense for harmony and aesthetics. On Strawberry Kush, there are ad libs after each line, and more than once they are just as loud or even louder than the actual lyrics. On What We Do, the ad libs aren’t really ad libs at all, but full lines that are turned down in the background, making the outcome sound chaotic and disorganized. The background should support the main vocals, not distract from them. There’s also the same issue when his voice is doubled. Both of the voices are at the same volume, and come at you with maximum energy. That just doesn’t sound good, it sounds too much. Mix one track into the background or have one of them rapping/singing with less force in the first place. Throughout much of the album, there’s too much going on.

But there’s another issue: while it was virtually impossible to get Trap Queen out of your head whether you liked it or not, the songs on Bruce Wayne are all forgettable and have little entertainment value. With irresistible choruses, clever or hard hitting punchlines or powerful beats, you can conceal all these flaws. But since on the record all of these aspects are absolutely basic with barely any distinctive personality it just puts the attention on the underwhelming vocal performance even more. The internet is full of great and inventive independent producers, in case Fetty Wap can’t afford the big names, but out of all these possible choices he selected the most unspectacular type beats that have been heard a million times before - especially as fillers.

I know it sounds picky, but the lack of feeling and sensitivity already starts with the white noise in the intro. Others have done that before, but better (in fact, Kim Wilde started her 2018 effort Here Come the Aliens with the same idea). How, you ask? Well, usually you have a filtered fragment of one of the artist’s song playing, before it’s overlapped by white noise for barely a second and switches to another song fragment. This simulates a radio, and works a bit like a snippet or album samples - it’s supposed to make you interested. But on this intro, the white noise is heard much louder and longer than the actual music, and you wonder if your speakers are broken.

Way too often, Bruce Wayne is unfocused and messy, without a proper structure and far too many weird stylistic decisions that lack a sense for what sounds pleasant. It’s not all Fetty Wap’s fault, quite often the production plays its part. The sad thing is: a lot of it could have been avoided with more sensitivity, better mastering and a just slightly more relaxed, laid back attitude - the kind of fun that Fetty Wap spreads in interviews. Maybe it wouldn’t have been a great record, but it would have been enough for half an hour of entertainment. Sometimes, less is more. Not often, but sometimes. This would have been one of these occasions.

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