Yung Lean has always been an artist I constantly admire, even when his discog isn't all that impressive. His pengame isn't very good, but he always has impressive production choices and he's a good curator when it comes to panning out his albums that usually turn out to be pretty cohesive sonically and contextually.
I've never liked a Yung Lean album until Stranger, which is this glossy, moody, gleaming cloud rap album with hard bangers and dense ballads that displays Leandoer at his most consistent yet. One other thing to love him for, is that he's a lot more self aware than he looks musically speaking, and he always shows ambition and new ideas with each release.
And Starz might actually be his most ambitious project to date, as many of the beats sound like a logical conclusion to most detours Lean has delved into previously in his discography. If you've listened to the leaks and then looked at the final product, you'd notice the Playboi Carti feature isn't here anymore. Ariel Pink is still in sight tho.
So yeah, Lean definitely tried here. However, Starz suffers from an issue he is yet to fully overcome: craftsmanship.
Starz contains impressive ideas and sounds, but some of them isn't well crafted or well polished into great songs, and that might come to various reasons. There's even some songs where Lean himself manages to technically ruin by performing some pretty annoying choruses, like Boylife in EU and Acid at 7/11, which is sad because those songs have great beats and decent verses.
Hooks like those where he sounds high out of his mind. Another instance is Iceheart, where the verse is mixed kinda poorly, and the vocals lacks the effects that the bridges as well as the vocals on the whole album have, which makes the track sounds relatively cheaper and amateurish. Low suffers from some weak vocal passages, and Sunset Sunrise as well as the final track display Lean at a pretty drab and lifeless state.
Now let's stop being mean, and let's discuss the great things Lean had to offer on Starz. There's quite a few! Actually, they boil down to 2 things that he always benefited from, but on this album it's a lot more apparent, consistent and impactful.
Firstly, the production is another step up for Leandoer, and a pretty big step. The sound at the core isn't too new for his arsenal, but here it's displayed at its most Lo-Fi, haunting, trippy and unsettling form yet. Tracks like Yayo, Dance in the Dark and the title track are cloudy, psychedelic and trippy into euphoria. Outta my Head, Dogboy and Hellraiser serve as some of his best melodic instrumentals, similar to some key tracks from Stranger like Hunting my own Skin. Beautifully Paralyzed and Pikachu are some of his most aggressive and straightforward beats, and it still works within the context of this album.
The other trait this album has going for it is Lean himself, his performances. Apart the annoying moments I mentioned earlier, and the overall quality of the album dipping a bit in the second half of the album, he still shows his abilities well on Starz. He would always hit a vocal range that magically fits with the glossy environment he's surrounded by, or slowly croon over the ocean of effects on him, and that sometimes works too.
By the way, let me get out of the way that Yayo is imo better with the Playboi Carti appearance. I know most hated it, but personally I found his out there performance and his baby voice to be somehow fitting miraculously in the Yung Lean filter. Also, the way he was mixed gave him an aura that gleamed on the cloudy, larger than life atmosphere he found himself in. Kind of a bummer that he got replaced by a pretty average Lean verse. Apart from that, and the low points, Lean mostly lands the mark. He always shows a knack for compelling effects and vocal experimentation, and Starz is no exception.
Final verdict? Starz is good. it's currently on par with Stranger, but it might grow up on me. Lean shows a lot of ambition and boundary pushing Lo-Fi cloud trap, but fails to stick the landing. He is yet to give us the big classic album that is very much in him, though.