There has been plenty of hype leading up to P3, the third full-length release from Toronto-based R&B mixer PARTYNEXTDOOR, but it’s worth pointing out that the collection doesn’t actually include his biggest hit of the year: Rihanna’s smash single, “Work.” To be fair, the co-writer doesn’t technically appear on RiRi’s ANTI single track either, unless you count the unofficially released guide track that’s been floating around online. The song does, however, feature bars from PARTYNEXTDOOR’s OVO Sound label boss, Drake, who raps poignantly: “when I see potential, I just gotta see it through.” Though PARTYNEXTDOOR’s first pair of LPs garnered acclaim, P3 is looking to push him to the next level.
The artist born Jahron Brathwaite first popped up through OVO in 2013, somewhat in the shadow of similarly-minded Toronto vocalist the Weeknd. While the latter has since crossed over into the pop world with a slightly disco-fied, post-MJ approach, PARTY’s latest still mostly clings to a murky vision of modern R&B. Opener “High Hopes” is an epic, seven-minute dive into debauchery, where goopy synth patterns, steel-toed kick rhythms, and a reference to Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” assist PARTYNEXTDOOR’s unending report on late night hookups, adulterous orgies, and other assorted scenarios in which he’s “tryna smash that.” Within the same wheelhouse is “Transparency,” which revolves around a drug-obliterated, early a.m. look at his city.
The suitably slow-paced “Don’t Run,” meanwhile, is another piece of musical tourism. Above its relaxed arrangement, PARTYNEXTDOOR hums and coos about someone wanting him to show her around the”6 Side.” He also happens to namecheck Toronto restaurant Fring’s, arguably most famous for being co-signed by Drake. With that food mention in mind, the song begins, quite bizarrely, with a punchline about a vegan “going ham” on Instagram.
Following in the wake of “Work” and Drake’s “Controlla” is PARTYNEXTDOOR’s especially dancehall-flavoured “Not Nice.” Here, the singer uses a just slightly Auto-Tuned tone to explain he’s feeling a bit misused by his girl. This first proper jump into an Island sound makes for one of the juiciest cuts on the collection, and suggests that the artists could certainly dive deeper into the genre.
Also stretching PARTYNEXTDOOR’s horizons is “Joy,” a jazzy, up-swung number that is basically just about being happy.
But while there’s plenty of brand new material to absorb on P3, the record also features semi-recent Drake collaboration “Come and See Me.” It’s a low-key ballad about texting out booty call requests at 2 a.m., and how that doesn’t always slide in your favour. PARTYNEXTDOOR sings about trying to figure out where he went wrong with the relationship, rifling through various voicemails to trace his downward spiral. Drake’s verse finds him pitying himself (“I thought we had a deal”).
To be fair, it’s been a big track for PARTYNEXTDOOR, but it’s ultimately a big downer. Considering the excess of material P3 proffers, and that the song has been around for a- few months already, it could’ve easily been shaved off the tracklist. For that matter, so could medium heat mid-stretch cuts like “Problems & Selfless” or “Spiteful.” But in a year that also saw Drake deliver his overstuffed-VIEWS, the extra long outing seems par for the OVO Sound aesthetic. P3 is certainly bigger, but PARTYNEXTDOOR has yet to reach his full potential.
– Gregory Adams