Yung Lean: Stardust Album Review

Since the release of his breakthrough single “Ginseng Strip 2002” nearly a decade ago, Swedish recording artist Yung Lean has struggled to be treated as more than a gimmick. While the song’s dreamy instrumentals indicated it wasn’t just comedy rap, Lean no doubt imitated his favorite American rappers, dropping profane bars about sex acts and drug trips, shrouded in an ironic vaporwave aesthetic. But as ironic as the record seemed, there was always an obscured sincerity at its core, perhaps exemplified by Lean’s stage name: On the one hand, “Yung Lean” is kind of a joke about carbon-copy rap names, but it’s also a legitimate play on his government name, Jonathan Leandoer.

stardust is the next step in shedding the mantle of Lean wannabe rapper and fully embrace a more comfortable role as a pop experimenter. After being blown up in the United States, his early work suggested an attempt at a more mainstream rap career. He scored a Travis Scott feature and a cameo on a Gucci Mane mixtape, but his flow and voice were still developing, and his attempts at pure rap felt awkward and out of place. Like many experiencing sudden virality, he had to learn how to become a musician, bringing his creative and personal growing pains to the attention of the public. Fame in America came with easy access to drugs, and Lean’s early success was marked by a string of tragedies, including the death of his manager, Hippos in Tanks founder Barron Machat. Lean tells in the documentary about his time in rehab and hospitalizations Yung Lean: In my head, and it is clear that he has worked to find the clarity and power that is now reflected in his music. on stardusthe radiates newfound confidence, but he has also learned to use the flawed fragility of his voice to his advantage.

Lean’s voice has often been incorrectly described as inaccessible or abrasive. But it is precisely the dissonance of his delivery and persona that explains his appeal: the emotionality of the sad boy’s aesthetic interspersed with material bends, an often imperfect voice over graceful and beautiful beats. On the outright ballad ‘Waterfall’ he stretches in a longing falsetto voice, while on ‘Lips’ his voice recedes into a more intimate murmur. His direct raps now have a significantly more developed sense of cadence, as on “Nobody Else,” where he effortlessly switches between a vocally fried sing-song delivery and a more clipped flow. Against the shimmering voices of his Drain Gang colleagues Bladee and Ecco2k in “SummerTime Blood,” Lean’s tone is rougher and more down-to-earth, while his collaborators lean towards the angelic. On “Starz2TheRainbow”, featuring Thaiboy Digital, several layers of overdubs circle and collide, turning Lean into a whimsical chorus.

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