Either you love Bladee or you hate Bladee. I don’t know many other musicians for whom this statement is more applicable, and with good reason. In strictly technical terms he is probably the worst singer and rapper around, performing in a tone-deaf, boyish voice slathered in autotune to the point of sounding robotic. On paper, I (and realistically, everyone else) should fall into the latter category, hatred, yet for the last eight months, practically all I’ve listened to is Bladee. The running joke amongst fans is “it sucks, but you get used to it”—and trust me, once you do get used to it, his music is cripplingly addictive.
Last year was a great year for Bladee’s fans. We received three projects: the experimental mixtape “Exeter,” the blissful and dreamy full-length album “333” and the sleek collaboration “Good Luck,” where we find him teaming up with producer Mechatok. Last Tuesday, May 11, Bladee and Mechatok released a deluxe version of this latest album; this new collection features an extra track and a slew of remixes, the most notable of which includes an unexpected feature from Charli XCX. The biggest surprise, however, is actually the album’s entire approach. While in the early 2010s Bladee started making cloud rap, a subgenre he helped popularize alongside fellow Swede Yung Lean, he’s since gone on to create his own brand of spacy, synthetic trap. “Good Luck (Deluxe)” represents a foray into electronic dance music—perhaps the most drastic step forward in a career usually defined by relatively subtler changes from project to project.
Unfortunately, it’s a transition that doesn’t go very smoothly. To be clear, “Good Luck (Deluxe)” is overall an enjoyable listen, but if I’m being honest I’ll be playing the album mostly as background music. The tracks divide themselves into either clearly danceable, or softer and ambient. Beat-driven songs like “Rainbow,” “God”, “Drama” and “Into One” are easily some of the best, while the instrumental “Intro” and quiet outro “Grace” are the weakest. These latter tracks also happen to feature Bladee’s voice much less than the aforementioned harder ones, and this is crucial because Mechatok’s production in the foreground isn’t interesting enough to carry most of the weight. Bladee’s presence is necessary. Chiller moments like “You” and “Sun” have a relaxed beat underneath them but are also kind of forgettable. “Grace” is a low-impact, unsatisfying way to end the first half of the album; the Salem remix on the second half gives the song more body and bass, making it a much stronger potential conclusion than the original. The bonus “Gates” is also a strong contender for an appropriate ending, since it’s one of the most ethereal and heavenly pieces that Bladee has ever put out. It continues his exploration of electronic lullabies like “Puppet Master” off of his 2018 album “Red Light,” or “Wings in Motion” and “Swan Lake” on his penultimate “333.” These are some of his most beloved songs, so it’s confusing as to why “Intro” and “Grace” fall so flat.
I think part of the problem is structure. Most of Bladee’s songs barely break the two-minute or three-minute mark, containing a few choruses and verses that are enough to entertain an audience working within the expectations of trap—anything longer and they’d likely become too repetitive. “Good Luck (Deluxe)” is working within the context of a different genre: dance music. Yet Mechatok and Bladee have decided to continue using this shorter formula, a decision that clashes with EDM’s buildup-drop method where most tracks move way past the five-minute mark. All of the buildups take up more than half of the song, and the drops last around 20 to 30 seconds before the track ends abruptly, which in terms of tension-and-release is unfulfilling because all the isolated elements have so much potential. The Evan Christ remix is one of the better remixes due to its fast hardstyle beat, but the last few seconds sound like they were accidentally cut off. These distinctions may seem pedantic, but it’s nonetheless important. Rockabilly and progressive rock simply demand different lengths and arrangements, and it’s the same here.
Part of the creative decisions may also come from Bladee’s shift towards situating himself parallel to, or even within, hyperpop. Some of the remixes on “Good Luck (Deluxe)” have even appeared on Spotify’s “hyperpop” playlist, which he and Mechatok were asked to curate around the time of the album’s release. Bladee’s aesthetic abuse of autotune certainly provides a clear connection to acts like 100 gecs and p4rkr, despite their contrasting deliveries. And, of course, the Charli XCX appearance is a strategic move to bring some of her fans over into his smaller following, though I wish it would have been a more authentic collaboration between the two, since Charli XCX sounds like she’s just been copied-and-pasted on top of the original. “Hero of My Story 3style3” off of his “333” definitely shows the intent to merge stylistic lanes, employing screechy textures and an unpredictable beat pattern similar to Charli XCX’s music. The track also features one of his most high-pitched vocal performances since “Girls just want to have fun,” a single he made with Ecco2k and one of the better examples of Bladee using these same techniques. Bladee doesn’t quite succeed in his attempts to cross over, but he is certainly improving. Because he isn’t fully leaning into either hyperpop or EDM, I find a lot of the music on here to be awkwardly situated between the two.
For someone new to Bladee, I’d recommend listening to “Good Luck (Deluxe),” and if you do, pay attention to the bangers, not the gentler cuts. I’ve converted more than a few people to the cult of Bladee via “God” and “Rainbow.” I dare say that the Charli XCX remix will be played on campus once parties come around again. My review so far might have seemed overwhelmingly negative, but I promise that this music is truly intoxicating and more nuanced than it may seem on first impression. Although I may be biased, because I’ve literally never heard a Bladee song that I didn’t enjoy at least a little bit; in other words, he’s never made a song that I actively dislike. And I can’t explain why.