Album review: Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon III: The Chosen

2020 has been a good year for music. We’ve heard a lot of great records that we didn’t expect to be great, but some albums from particular artists were underwhelming. However, on Friday, I came across what may be one of the greatest disappointments in recent music history.

After the triumph of a collaboration that was Kids See Ghosts with Kanye West, Kid Cudi decides to defecate on the sound and vibe that made him prominent in the first place to satisfy the casual hip-hop fan with bad decision after bad decision on the book end to the Man On The Moon trilogy.

Man On The Moon III is the equivalent of doing karaoke on an acid trip after chugging an entire bottle of NyQuil.

This album is the first solo project for Cudi since 2016’s Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. Prior to that, we had the critically-bashed Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, which has been meme’d to hell thanks to incredibly obnoxious, and at points, offensive songs. While I have no love for either record, I can, at least, respect Cudi for being bold enough to test the waters in other genres regardless of the epic failures in the final product.

I think Cudi finally got what he was expecting from those records on Kids See Ghosts. He needed someone with an incredible mind for production and mixing to turn Cudi’s ambitious visions into quality and coherent tracks. Even with the rock-heavy instrumentals on that album, he didn’t stray away from his recognizable sound. His droning, elongated, and sometimes, haunting vocals are iconic, and that cannot be argued.

With Man On The Moon III, I expected nothing less than that iconic sound, and just a good, if not great album. Unfortunately, we only get shades of his greatness as nearly every decision on this record is misguided. It’s one of the most tedious listens of the year.

Now, this has nothing to do with the themes and sentiment of the record because it sees Cudi coming to terms with his mental-illness bouts and a lifestyle that led him down the wrong paths. The songwriting is the bright spot of the record. It’s the instrumentals, the vocals, and the way a majority of the songs sound that ruin the album.

The album starts on a high note with an absolute banger in “Tequila Shots.” It’s everything you could want in a Cudi song. His vintage vocals and spacey instrumentals should give us an indication of what this record is going to be, but the next track gives some red flags as “Another Day” feels like a cut track from Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak. We have some auto-tuned to hell vocals with these odd, distorted kickdrums that don’t mesh well in the slightest.

The next three tracks see Cudi take his collaboration with Travis Scott too far and embodies Scott on “She Knows This”, “Dive” and “Damaged.” Vocally, they are Travis songs. Sonically, they are Travis songs. Did the producers and engineers not think we would notice?

“Heaven On Earth” started pretty hard with this glistening instrumental and Cudi’s flow was solid. However, Cudi essentially growls on the hook and the mixing fades him out similar to the first cut of Nav’s appearance on “Yosemite” that got roasted to the point where the song was re-done.

In an act of kindness, Cudi provides an intermission on track eight and allows us to listen to the posthumous Pop Smoke record from earlier this year. Skepta also gives a nice feature, but I couldn’t find where Cudi was on the track. According to the credits, it’s his album. Is it not?

We don’t get another quality track until “Mr. Solo Dolo III.” While the mixing, at points, is still pretty poor, it’s still a sound where Cudi thrives the most and at this point, I’m now flabbergasted as to why this sound is tossed out for 95% of the album.

Can’t wait to see how many people cry and say how life-changing and relatable “Sad People” is. The song is nothing more than a throwaway hip-hop instrumental with Cudi half-assed singing his way through the three minutes. It’s just incredibly boring, which is the trend for most of this album.

What the hell is “Elsie’s Baby Boy?” Cudi samples “House of the Rising Sun” to craft one of the most sonically-confused tracks of all time. I have no idea what’s going on here. I hate the mixing. The sample is misguided and the hook is as comical as anything I’ve heard in awhile. “Such a little sad boy, little sad boy, little sad boy, *grunts* Elsie’s baby boy.”

The rest of the record is just a wasteland of boredom, bad sounds and poor decisions.

I do enjoy the feature from Phoebe Bridgers on “Lovin’ Me.” I do think they complement their voices quite nicely and it’s one of the few standouts on this album.

That’s about all I have on this record. I did not have a good time.

I went back and listened to Cudi’s “Marijuana” and a handful of tracks from the original Man On The Moon to see if his sound is just something I don’t enjoy anymore, but on the contrary, those tracks felt like mouthwash after eating a handful of mud.

Lyrically, can you connect with the album? Sure, but at the end of the day, songs are auditory experiences and if they don’t sound good, the song is not going to be good. This is the case for the album. I don’t know what went wrong.

Maybe society has progressed past the need for solo Kid Cudi music.

Man On The Moon III: The Chosen is a bad album.

Richest Tracks: “Tequila Shots”, “Mr. Solo Dolo III”, “Lovin’ Me” 

Worst Track: It’s a tossup between “Another Day” and “Elsie’s Baby Boy.”

Rating: 2/10

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