Where do you go after making a masterpiece? Plenty pondered the hypothetical after rapper Kendrick Lamar released "To Pimp a Butterfly", a record many consider to be one of the greatest pieces of music ever made. I mention the question because Scaled and Icy represents the successor to Trench, a shockingly exceptional release from a group who never seemed interested in exceptionality. A departure from the sterilized pop rap of before, Trench perfectly showcased the Tyler Joseph of the future, with evolved songwriting abilities, production capabilities, and a fresh sense of maturity. However, the world that encompassed Tyler Joseph three years ago is not the same world that encompasses him today. On February 9th, 2020, Tyler became a father, after welcoming Rosie Robert Joseph into the world, soon starting to record music "scaled back and isolated" due to the pandemic. Despite escaping the city of DEMA months prior, Clancy was dead.
Happy, relaxed, lighthearted: these words have never been associated with the TØP brand, right? Well, let it be known that Scaled and Icy is concentrated joy. Where Trench was a darkly potent masterpiece to represent the growth of Tyler Joseph's character, Scaled and Icy is a skip and a half through a merry wonderland. The depressive themes that so strongly characterized previous TØP ventures are mostly absent from Scaled and Icy, relegated to brief cameos (e.g. No Chances, Redecorate). Rather than "Neon Gravestones try to call for my bones" representing the lyrical norm of the record, it's "Feelin' great - Life moves slow on the ocean floor, feelin' great - I can't feel the waves anymore". TØP is no stranger to more easygoing, less serious romps, but on Scaled and Icy, the TØP dichotomy has been completely flipped on its head. Though plenty may write off Scaled and Icy as the group's sellout record after the low popularity of Trench, that assessment is completely wrong. For the first time, Tyler Joseph is happy, and the music is happy as a result.
With how overjoyed Tyler Joseph's performances appear to be, it's normal to be skeptical of the potential vapidity of Scaled and Icy. After all, TØP are no strangers to trend-surfing millennial pop. Fortunately, the evolved songwriting abilities that so distinctly characterized Trench carries over to Scaled and Icy as well, as the record consistently serves smash after smash. With thought-provoking lyricism, hooks crafted to perfection, and ear-catching instrumentation, Scaled and Icy is a record TØP's contemporaries would kill to have in their discography. The hit potential Scaled and Icy boasts is off the charts, from the heartwarming piano-led opener Good Day, to the adorable secondary teaser Choker, to the star-studded title track Shy Away. And for those saddened with the change of tone Scaled and Icy represents, the closing two tracks No Chances and Redecorate revisit the harsh Trench atmosphere, acting as Tyler's break free from DEMA's control. Scaled and Icy is chock full of standouts waiting for the play button to be pushed.
When Level of Concern released last March, I became fascinated with the idea of a retro, throwback pop TØP record. Somehow, fourteen months later, I got exactly what I wanted. A Vessel of the new decade, Scaled and Icy is Tyler Joseph's present-day personified as song, resulting in a record that warms my heart to no end. Boasting a limitless amount of bops, Scaled and Icy is the perfect pop record for a post-pandemic world. "Slow down on Monday - not a sound on Wednesday - might get loud on Friday" is the type of energy I need these days! Scaled and Icy isn't the evolutionary masterpiece Trench was. And that's ok.
Favorite Track(s): Choker, Shy Away, The Outside, Saturday, Never Take It, No Chances, Redecorate
Least Favorite Track: Bounce Man
|1||Good Day / 75|
|2||Choker / 90|
|3||Shy Away / 85|
|4||The Outside / 75|
|5||Saturday / 70|
|6||Never Take It / 75|
|7||Mulberry Street / 65|
|8||Formidable / 75|
|9||Bounce Man / 50|
|10||No Chances / 80|
|11||Redecorate / 95|