There's a lot fundamentally wrong with this album from when it was first placed on the drawing board. Trippie actually finds himself at home on certain soulful trap beats, hence, the ideal concept for him to follow was to work on his existing sound palette and broadening to something more widely acceptable. Sure, Trippie deserves all the credit for exploring outside the bubble of his brand of emo trap, however, being an idealistic artist doesn't assure good music. And that's most evident on this trainwreck of a mess.
What do I mean by it being flawed from the get-go? Well, let your brain process this. Pegasus, the predecessor to this project, was an overtly bloated piece of trap music in the vein of a post-2015 Chris Brown album. It's not outright horrible, it's just a void of nothingness thrown at your ears for more than an hour with little or no variation and directly aimed. However, Neon Shark does just that, unlike Pegasus, it's outright trash but a bit more interesting. What I'm saying is, unlike Pegasus, it passes to the rank of "so bad it's decent". However, this still sounds like rock music for people who don't know what makes a rock song a rock song. This is a cock album, not a rock album.
What does Trippie do to his own career through the medium of this project? Well, a lot to be honest. If Trippie was falling off musically, this is further evidence he is. He now joins the troupe of bad, white, and corny rap-rockers who are a disgrace to music itself. This includes Machine Gun Kelly, Yungblud, and maybe even a few dudes like Blackbear who are on the verge of ditching their Tiktok directed artist image for trying bad pop-rock out.
However, that isn't the only issue about this. I'm not skeptical of Trippie Redd as a vocalist, he can surprisingly stay potent vocally while going out raw, and his screams have the energy of a rocker. This left me expecting a hell lot with this. I knew it'd be corny, but I never expected it to fumble so fucking hard. Trippie is one of those artists who has an exceptional array of tracks that serve as the core examples for good trap songs but his discography is also aligned with a lot of filler fodder. But the vocal energy and rawness that was present on a lot of his early stuff are sadly missing around here. Autotune doesn't work with rock-tinged percussion, get that into your head Trippie. I get the autotune is stylistically aimed but it doesn't add anything like it usually does to some trap tracks. But this isn't vehemently trap music, so the autotune just puts the nail in the coffin. Trippie's writing here is so below par it even undercuts the lyrical themes of "Tickets To My Downfall", and the mixing is so awfully bad it feels like there wasn't even an engineer behind this project.
So if Trippie's gig here is almost brain-dead, the only other thing this album can get a set of wings from is Travis Barker and the list of A-list features. Sure, the features on paper don't look too good, and Travis has the track record of being a washed-up emo star who can't contribute anything to save the sinking ship that is his band, so he stays making disgraceful collabs with rappers who can't hold a vocal note, so this album can most definitely not receive a push that takes it to the stratosphere like in the album cover from the collaborators. And to no one's surprise, they all deliver half-assed performances with a few exceptions. Travis' production is some of the most paltry, off-brand, and flawed trap-rock shit I've heard in a decade, and while there are some standout instrumentals, Trippie's vocals just don't function well over them. Also, the album goes on for long stretches without any switch-ups. The first 5 tracks on this record are irredeemably flawed, to the point where the exciting-sounding Chino Moreno feature and Blackbear's paltry vocal lines outweigh Trippie. Trippie's vocal riffing here is god-awful, and his writing does absolutely nothing beneficial to it. Some of the lyrics here are so blunt and amateur I could fucking write this.
Things change for the better post-Red Sky and Sea World. Machine Gun Kelly follows his now-ubiquitous brand of "pop-punk" and does his thing at times, but both his features are still horrendous. Blackbear is probably the most mediocre pop-rapper to come around in a while, and his uninteresting vocal palette taxes me out. Chino's vocals descend into angelic at portions, but simultaneously his integration into the instrumental is a pain in the ass as Trippie cuts into every one of his moments. However, Red Sky, Megladon, and Save Yourself, the second two in particular are as far as decency goes on this album. It isn't as awful as the first few tracks.
Man, I went into this thinking, I love Trippie's old shit, so this might be a pleasant surprise and these reviewers are just overhating on it. But Jesus Christ, there are zero positive values to derive from most of this record. I hope it serves as a model for Trippie to realize this isn't his genre, and a "wake-up call" for Travis to step up his production game.
Dreamer is one of the worst singles of 2020, and its presence here worried me from before I first got a whiff of this album's much-flawed soundscape. However, right before Dreamer, and right after it, the album gets a bit of a pep shot, at least instrumentally, which saves things from going all awry. Mainstream Media probably thinks this is better than Whole Lotta Red, but this whole EP is tear-jerkingly bad, not in a good way. Even a change of pace with Leaders on here does good to the record, but that's one of many minute changes that could've made this EP passable. But nothing works, and it's only the final half that works. Even though I like some of the tracks on this portion of the project, this doesn't mean anything, because I swear to god I'm never coming back to a single track on here in the near future. I gotta give it to the Zilla and Scar song though, that song has the energy the rest of the project was missing, and what it could've potentially been. But even this song is slightly flawed on the instrumental side.
Tracks I found a tiny-bit enjoyable along the bumpy road: Without You, Red Sky, Megladon, Save Yourself, Leaders and Dead Desert
Tracks that are irredeemably flawed to the point of no return: Female Shark, Dreamer, Pill Breaker