By Brad Kramer
The Kid LAROI showed a great deal of potential with his debut mixtape, F*** LOVE. Juvenile name and amateur singing aside, this Australian Juice WRLD protigé showcased a great ear for melody and some passionate performances. He quickly outdid himself with a deluxe edition called “SAVAGE,”a re-release with seven new tracks of supremely catchy blends of rap, pop and acoustic ballads. But unfortunately, the well has really dried up for LAROI with this third installment in the F*** LOVE series, “Over You.”
If LAROI has improved on anything this go round, it’s his singing and production. Looking back on his first two installments of the F*** LOVE series, there were some vocals LAROI attempted that sounded strained. But LAROI doesn’t sound like he’s straining to hit his notes anymore. He’s ascended to pop-star status and the quality of his singing rose with him.
These are also some of the poppiest beats LAROI has ever touched. From sobering piano balladry on the title track to driving dance-pop on “Stay” to warm RnB samples on “Still Chose You,” LAROI is pushing himself outside of his comfort zone. There’s not a single guitar-based emo-rap beat on this entire project, which is refreshing considering how comfortable he got with that sound on “SAVAGE.”
I was pleasantly surprised to see such a diverse feature list as well. LAROI having guest spots with Machine Gun Kelly, Marshmello and Miley Cyrus in the past made me think he was going to go full pop and forgo his talents as a rapper. But pop stars like Justin Bieber stand side-by-side on this project with Chicago rap veterans like G Herbo and Lil Durk. I didn’t expect to see LAROI palling around with them, but the track they wind up on is great, and one of the most vulnerable moments on the album. Polo G and Stunna Gambino also shined on “Not Sober.” The two reminisce to when they were broke and struggling which fits right in with LAROI’s chorus about drinking just to get away from it all.
So LAROI stepped out of the emo-rap box he was dangerously close to being trapped in—that’s great, but there’s just one problem. The quality of LAROI’s writing has dropped a great deal. His lyrics aren’t the issue, he always wrote from that “immature teenage boy just trying to find his way” perspective ever since he debuted. It was his melodies that hooked me in, but sadly there’s nothing all that catchy on “Over You.”
Take the title track for example. The passion in this song is electrifying—he wails out during the chorus about how hurt he feels by someone and how he’s finally pushing them away. But during the verses, he sings over this slow moving piano ballad with an awkwardly fast flow. It feels like he’s still rapping over a driving guitar beat from the “SAVAGE” days.
This is a problem for almost all of the album. Too often LAROI finds himself over a new instrumental palette, but approaches these beats in the same ways he did on his last two projects. It makes these songs sound clunky, and it’s why this album has barely any catchy elements or replay value for me. “Stay,” “Not Sober,” and “Same Energy” are the only songs where LAROI sounds focused, and they’re the only songs I’d ever think of going back to.
Hopefully the attempts at new styles, more controlled singing, and even greater passion, are a forecast of nothing but good things for LAROI’s future. But, as of right now, it’s clear he’s got some work to do before he perfects a more polished, pop-centric sound. LAROI is headed in the right direction and “Over You” is just a small glimpse of what might be a path to a great career.
Favorite Tracks: “Stay,” “Not Sober”