“I knew life would be alright, but who could’ve known it’d be this good,” Chicago-bred singer/rapper Jeremih sings with an awe-struck sense of wonder on “Paradise,” the lullaby-sweet closer to his finally-arrived Late Nights: The Album. It’s a record that’s faced its fair share of delays, and comes a whole heaping five years after his last proper longplayer, All About You. He’s gone through a career-renaissance, owing much to the surprise success of 2012 mixtape Late Nights with Jeremih, and hype has been building for the album since being announced in the middle of 2014. Though there’s a gentleness to its finale, the follow up to the 2012 freelease still finds the singer sinning non-stop. Just the way he likes it.
Opener “Planez” had arrived as a single earlier in the year, but it’s open-air arrangement of synth-bass and wind-whipped snare still soars. A drop-top boom ballad about riding through the city, it flexes Jeremih’s elegant tenor, here supported with a guest verse from rapper J. Cole.
Jeremih’s vocals come contorted and pitch-shifted on the party-starting “Pass Dat,” a particularly blunt ode to twisting and lighting up a joint and sipping on a drink. The tune isn’t exactly profound, but gets the job done well enough. Half-time dub-mixer “Drank” gets awkwardly ambiguous, with lines about tasting the apple-flavoured Crown Royal right out of someone’s pores leading to blackout moments (“Do not know how you got topless”).
Built with a club-geared narrative, the sea-sick wobble of “Royalty” sounds like it was made for anyone about to pass out in the VIP. Guest artist Future applies his patented, oddly tender whirl of AutoTuned croons to the tune. Big Sean hits the feel perfectly, while also throwing in some politics, with the raw: “Taking more shots than the cops, that’s tragic/It’s ok as long as you don’t turn it to a habit.”
Though generally trafficking in a past-midnight mix of murky synth work, “Oui” is a particularly spry piece full of energized piano rolls, where an overly enthusiastic and googly-eyed Jeremih plots getting out of the darkness for a sun-soaked vaycay with his only one.
That mood is blotted out quite quickly, though, via the nihilistic “Giv No Fuks”. A piped-up organ loop only barely lines-up with the chaotic clack of drums, above which the artist rolls off a bunch of rhymes about picking up any-and-everyone that’s DTF. Migos member Quavo likewise skips out on settling down, offering simply of his bed-game exploits: “I am not wifin’ these hoes.” While the beat hits hard, the track is the most emotionally bankrupt piece on an otherwise riches-filled album.
All the same, Late Nights: The Album isn’t for the faint of heart. “Woosah” feels like the natural successor to “All the Time,” a decadent and filthy slow jam from the Late Nights with Jeremih mixtape driven by a booming, chopped-not-slopped vocal hook and the intentional abuse of an on-air censorship bleep. The newer track keeps things unedited, with the cough syrup-slugging beat undercoating plenty of blush-worthy admissions.
The album winds itself down with the smooth and sensual “Worthy,” featuring a fine duet between Jeremih and R&B singer Jhené Aiko, and then into the achingly beautiful “Paradise.” Accompanied by the soft-touch plucking of a nylon string guitar, it has a post party-mode Jeremih reflecting on the wild times. Though ultimately a next-day wrap-up of his debauchery, there’s something sweet about how he talks about recouping with “two Tylenols and a smoothie” and a nice soak in a Jacuzzi.
It’s not the life for everyone, of course, but it’s currently the life for Jeremih. The next late night is just around the corner, and according to “Paradise,” everything’s just getting “better, better, better.”
review by Gregory Adams