Various Artists – Black Panther the Album Review
“Black Panther,” the latest in the set of films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is all the rage. From the critic reviews already out to fan reactions, it is shaping up to be one of the best movies Marvel has put out so far. Accompanying the movie is a 14-track album, curated by Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), inspired by the film and featuring some songs in the film. Although the songs that will appear in the movie is still unclear, TDE has been able to break the trend of terrible music inspired by movies (see “Suicide Squad”) and create an album that is overwhelmingly appealing.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that there are not some misfires across the album. The first lead single “All The Stars” is as cookie cutter as it gets for a mainstream song. SZA’s vocals perfectly match the song, but Kendrick Lamar’s verse is phoned in and was clearly toned down to appeal to a radio audience. Industry plant Khalid is on the album as well, giving his generic lyricism a go on the song “The Ways.” There are other songs that are similarly generic, but these two are the biggest offenders.
Where it is blatantly obvious that this album was inspired by “Black Panther” is on many of the productions choices. African inspired drums are riddled throughout and bring an extremely unique sound to several trap style songs. There are also the extremely faced paced, bass heavy songs that sound like they could be played over fight scenes or car chases. This was confirmed when these songs were used as promotional tools for the movie and these are some of the best songs on the album. “X” with ScHoolboy Q, 2 Chainz and Saudi, as well as Kendrick Lamar, slaps from start to finish.
The album also serves as a great opportunity to hear some artists work together who may have not worked together anytime soon otherwise. Anderson .Paak and James Blake on “Bloody Waters,” with Ab-Soul, pair almost too perfectly. The production in smooth and just forces the listener to nod along. “King’s Dead,” which is a lead single off of Jay Rock’s next album, is an aggressive rap track from start to finish. From Future’s oddly satisfying verse to Kendrick finishing it off with an energized, mile a minute verse, the song is too much fun to not enjoy.
But “King’s Dead” also brings to the forefront another problem: many of these songs just sound like they were supposed to be on other albums and, maybe because the check was right, ended up here instead. “Paramedic!,” even though it’s an incredible track, seems like something that SOB x RBE were willing to part with even though it was not inspired by the movie. “Black Panther” has lyrics that seem to pertain to the movie, but it also seems like it may have been written before and lyrics were just changed to fit the context of the movie. That doesn’t make these bad songs, but they could only be here because Marvel paid good money for them to be.
Overall though, for music inspired/for a mainstream movie, it’s hard to ask for much more. There are good verses throughout and nothing egregious enough to kill the album for them. It could have been better, but this may be the start of movie inspired albums being actually good and not the dumpster fire that was the “Suicide Squad” album.
David Arroyo is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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