This is coming from someone who knows the bare minimum to literally nothing about making music. Music engineering and production and why there’s more than two people in the studio? Know nothing about it.
All I know is the power music has, its ability to please your ears and describe something you’ve always struggled to put into words. Remember this as you read on (or read anything I wrote/write regarding music).
In 2021, Jack Harlow was my most played artist with three of my top five songs being by him (I wish I was kidding). After hearing “Tyler Herro” for the first time, I went on a massive Jack Harlow kick and listened to every bit of his discography that’s available on Spotify. You would think I was a super fan with the way I always had his music in my ears and had a breakdown every time I missed a show in Tennessee.
Well, I can wholeheartedly say, I’m not a super fan. Twenty twenty-two started, and I cut myself off from listening to Jack Harlow to broaden my horizons (which ended up being Mac Miller). When Come Home The Kids Miss You was released, I was really done with Jack… until very recently.
I want to take a moment to discuss Jack’s three most recent projects, projects I believe catapulted his career. This won’t be me breaking down every single song because who has the time? Who has the energy?
Without further ado… here is my compliment sandwich.
Thats What They All Say
This album came out late 2020, but I remember listening to it at the beginning of 2021 because I didn’t want to be apart of the “trend.” Little did I know it would be my most played album of twenty twenty-one. It’s been two years since I’ve listened to this album in its entirety, and I still remember how I initially felt while listening to it.
The first time I listened to “21C/Delta”, I had a fantastic flashback. My mind took me back to a time a close friend of mine and I went to the 21C in Nashville, and there was a beautiful neon pink uterus wearing boxing gloves on the wall. The power I felt when I saw that uterus… unmatched. The ability for a song to instantly take me back, in a way I wasn’t expecting, also unmatched.
I remember going “Awwww” when I first heard “Keep It Light”. It was the first song from the album I listened to repeatedly (not counting the singles). A warmth filled my heart when I first heard this song, a warmth associated with experiencing the love of family. Nowadays, the song will randomly play on shuffle, and it still has the ability to make my heart and face smile.
If I think I remember this information from my younger cousin correctly, the remix of “WHATS POPPIN” is what started his quick rise to the big spotlight (the large spotlight that gets you invited to the Met Gala more than once). The remix put him on everyone’s radar, but I have such an unpopular opinion: the original is so much better. I said what I said, and I said it with my chest. The best features on the album are Big Sean on “Way Out” and Adam Levine on “Same Guy”.
At the end of the day, “Tyler Herro” is a song I don’t think I’ll ever tire of.
Come Home The Kids Miss You
After my first listen of this album, I remember telling someone (my friend? cousin?), “Aaaaand, we’re done.” As in, if that was the kind of music he wanted to make, I was done listening to it and supporting it because, to be frank, this album just wasn’t good. I had to listen to it right before writing this to remember anything from it because it’s a pretty unmemorable album. “First Class” was the single to blow up from this album, and there just wasn’t much content there… It felt like a way to simply make Fergie relevant again.
Overall, I felt uncomfortable and cringed while listening to this album, like I was watching some of the cringe-worthy moments from Kenya Barris’ White Men Can’t Jump. I just… I had to look away, like when I was listening to “Dua Lipa”.
Now, I will say, there are a few songs that had potential; they just didn’t quite create that moment of musical satisfaction like Thats What They All Say and Jackman.: “Talk of the Town”, “Lil Secret”, “Churchill Downs” ft. Drake, “Nail Tech”. Another positive (sort of): the small moments where the strings and/or piano were present were beautiful.
In an interview I discuss in the next paragraph, Jack mentions that his last album “may have been” influenced by overperforming, and it one thousand percent was. Glad he’s self-aware. As I’ve stated before, it felt like a money album. Like, it was made for the sake of staying relevant and keeping popularity alive. It felt like keeping up with fame was at the forefront of his mind instead of being genuine, instead of simply being Jack.
After the… experience that was Come Home The Kids Miss You, I still gave Jackman. a try and was pleasantly surprised. I listened to Jack’s episode of Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin to better understand Jackman. The whole project felt like Jack—instead of a product of the industry like the previous album—that I wanted to understand what the switch was.
In the interview, Jack said there was a focus on being concise and lucid, and before playing a song, I feel like you can tell with the lengths of the tracks. He mentions being inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s storytelling, and being freshly done with listening to Kendrick’s entire discography, I can hear the inspiration in Jack’s new album.
I loved that he started the album with “Common Ground” and how it calls out society/different things he sees that everyone else sees. They’re things no one wants to talk about, though they should. Kid you not, I started snapping when I finished this song the first time. Pure 2023 poetry.
As someone who is known for being a total flirt (I think the kids these days are calling him the “rizz expert” or “Jack the Rizzler” or something along those lines), Jack Harlow says something interesting in “They Don’t Love It” that had question marks flying everywhere in my head. He talks about his future wife being a CEO or doing volunteer work in Rio; he says he doesn’t need her but would love to meet her. Considering there are tons of women obsessed with this man, simply because of his flirtatious demeanor, when will he know he’s in the presence of his future wife and not some obsessed fan or female celebrity trying to improve her image?
In “Gang Gang Gang”, it’s a testament to how deep loyalty goes. It poses the question: When do you draw the line? This song and “Blame On Me” have the best storytelling, for sure. With “Blame On Me”, it’s told from the perspective of a younger brother, older brother, and father, and being the eldest sibling (though I’m a woman), I found this song to be the most relatable.
It felt like the most vulnerability and honesty was in “Denver”. There is also a lot of vulnerability in “Questions”, the final song on the album. I think ending the album with “Questions” was such a brilliant decision; it sets up a good transition (there’s a better word, but you know what I mean) for the next album.
In his interview with Rick Rubin, Jack talks about his dad liking smooth, easy listening, which influenced Jack, and you can definitely hear it in this album; it kind of takes me back to Jack’s 2018 album Loose (another favorite of mine).
With all that being said, my absolute favorite thing about Jackman., besides there being absolutely no features, is its quiet release. There wasn’t a lot of press to hype up the announcement of this album or any of that. I literally found out it was happening because my friends are obsessed with him and posted it on their Instagram stories. The way it was released set the tone for the album, and it was perfect.
Personally, I think Jackman. is his best album yet because there’s so much genuineness and maturity and some vulnerability. It’s half the length of the previous albums, but it’s twice as powerful. Dare I say… the album’s so good I might just pre-order it on vinyl… MIGHT.
Jack Harlow is known for being a smooth man with a lot of charm, charisma, sometimes a confidence that borders cockiness. But at the end of the day, he’s a storytelling poet from Kentucky with a big heart full of goodness. What he says about repping and giving back to his city is very true, which is evident with the philanthropy work he does through The Jack Harlow Foundation (the only Jack Harlow account I follow and actively keep up with; I love learning about local heroes in other communities).
As a simple enjoyer of music, I’m excited to see what Jack Harlow does next—through the Instagram stories of my friends, of course.