Head in the Clouds II: A Review

Jaeeun Park and Minjun Kim

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    On Oct. 11, 88rising, an Asian music collective, released its album “Head in the Clouds II”, mainly produced by Joji (George Miller) who rose to mainstream fame with his song “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK.” “Head in the Clouds II” is a sequel to 88rising’s debut album “Head in the Clouds,” released July 20, 2018. This is a review of the entire track list, with a quick go-over of each song’s basic elements.

  1. “These Nights” – Rich Brian and CHUNG HA

   “These Nights” is a collaboration between Indonesian hip-hop artist Rich Brian and K-Pop solo artist CHUNG HA. It has a peculiar music video, with a mullet-styled Rich Brian and CHUNG HA riding a motorcycle in place while bobbing to the beat. However, this review isn’t for the music video; it’s for the music. The autotuned vocals and ‘80s backing track meld together smoothly, but the music video and overall theme might’ve taken off more than a few points.

Rating: 3.5/5 Joji heads

  1. “Strange Land” – Niki and Phum Viphurit

   The song “Strange Land” is about a couple who has slowly drifted apart. It’s an airy, dreamlike duet with a repetitive arpeggio plucked on a guitar and a rhythmic bongo-esque beat. Once devoted to one another, the two croon about how they find themselves lost now that their partner is not a part of their life. It feels like therapeutic background music for a Hawaiian hotel lobby or a heartbroken elevator.

Rating: 3.5/5 Joji heads

  1. “Need is Your Love” – Joji and GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE

   “Need is Your Love” is a collaboration between Joji and Japanese pop music group GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE with lines of Japanese throughout the piece. The melody isn’t very unique or memorable. Maybe it would be used as background music for an low-rated movie. The song is mildly catchy, but doesn’t hit anyone hard in the feels.

Rating: 2/5 Joji heads 

  1. “Tequila Sunrise” – Jackson Wang and Higher Brothers, featuring August 08 and GoldLink 

   This track featuring K-Pop group GOT7 vocalist Jackson Wang is about one’s hesitance to confront feelings for someone and thinking about them all the time while not realizing it. “Tequila Sunrise” is the closest to a ballad/generic pop hit in this album, and that combination cannot go wrong. It’s perfection in the form of Joji’s pink latex suit.

Rating: 5/5 Joji heads  

  1. “Walking (feat. Swae Lee & Major Lazer)” – Joji and Jackson Wang

   The song “Walking” is sung by Joji and Jackson Wang and features Swae Lee and Major Lazer. Major Lazer incorporates their signature pop style into the backing track making the song more mainstream. This song incorporates an image of the desire of dancing with someone. Not very memorable, but not offensive, “Walking” is a lukewarm contender of both worlds.

Rating: 3/5 Joji heads

  1. “Breathe” – Joji and Don Krez

   The song “Breathe” is a collaboration between Joji and long-time 88rising DJ and producer, Don Krez. The song was leaked a year prior to its release and was a mysterious hit among the fans. The song is about a relationship where Joji felt like he was unable to breathe because of his significant other’s actions. The melody gives the listener a hypnotic mood and works well with the sad lyrics, making the song perfect perfect to listen to on a gloomy day.

Rating: 5/5 Joji heads

  1. “Shouldn’t Couldn’t Wouldn’t” – NIKI and Rich Brian

   In the song “Shouldn’t Couldn’t Wouldn’t,” NIKI and Rich Brian play a couple and sing about their dying relationship. The song was written by NIKI, Rich Brian and sad alex. There is a lot of syncopated swing rhythm added to the relaxed tempo of the song. It could’ve been improved by changing up the pattern of the repetitive chorus somewhere, but that didn’t happen, and the chorus gave off too many country vibes for a modern alternative hip-hop album.

Rating: 3.5/5 Joji heads

  1. “Just Used Music Again” – Rhyme So

   This song. Where does one start? It repeats an endless line of “I just used music again,” which there is nothing wrong with, until 88rising adds a Daft Punk-esque backing track. That was the final puzzle piece that transformed a mediocre song into a bad one. It’s the kind of music that would play in a clothing boutique that tries to be more high-fashion than it is and only has ugly, obscure designer clothing.

Rating: 0.5/5 Joji heads

  1. “Indigo” – NIKI

   The song “Indigo” is written by NIKI and is about her experience with a boy at a city while they are high. The song was released as her single two months prior to this album. With a catchy chorus about pushing the boundaries, the singer wants to “test all the borderlines” in the moment with her companion.  The referral to the color indigo to symbolize the unexplored parts of life create imagery of never-ending city skylines. NIKI’s breathy vocals work well with the laid-back lyrics and light beats.

   “My favorite song is ‘Indigo’ by NIKI because I like the general chorus and beat of the song. I don’t really understand the lyrics because it sounds like she’s wheezing, but it’s all good,” says Lauren Cho, a West Ranch sophomore.

Rating: 5/5 Joji heads.

  1. “Hopscotch (feat. Barney Bones & Rich Brian)” – AUGUST 08, Joji

   “Hopscotch”, featuring LA-based songwriter Barney Bones and again Rich Brian, gives off all the vibes of hit songwriter Joji’s eccentric internet alter ego Filthy Frank. Known for producing meme music with strange topics and in his signature chainsmoker voice, Filthy Frank’s fans may have even listened to some of his prior releases. With an authentic rap made over a generic bass beat, the piece is a bop. The artists that worked on this song made a drastic switch from their usual sad ballad vocals to rough, autotuned rapping. Comical lyrics aside, the backing beat and flow could rival ones of popular mainstream artists.

   “I like ‘Hopscotch’ because it is a song that gives me hype,” adds Isaac Bae, a West Ranch freshman.

Rating: 3/5 Joji heads

  1. “Calculator” – August 08 and Barney Bones

   August 08 uses a broken calculator as a metaphor for his unsatisfactory love life. The narrator does everything he believes will lead to a good relationship but the ending and situation are out of his control. A steady piano hits low chords that are relatively simple for a backing track from 88rising; however, it serves to support and emphasize the angst and confusion in its lyrics. Everything’s fine, but just fine. Maybe next time they’ll sing about rulers.

Rating: 2/5 Joji heads

  1. “La La Lost You” – NIKI

   The song “La La Lost You” is written by NIKI and Jacob Ray and is about how the narrator’s significant other left her behind in LA to pursue a different path in New York. The music is mellow and shows her bitterness towards her significant other through allusions to landmarks and prominent areas in both cities. Whoever listens to this song can feel a sense of nostalgia and heartbreak.

Rating: 5/5 Joji heads

  1. “Hold Me Down” – Higher Brothers

   This song is all in the rappers’ native dialect of Mandarin, which is new and unique to us, but it’s nearly impossible to understand for English-only speakers. Google translate might not be able to help at the pace the rap flows. The audio is a bit chafing to hear, so skip the song.

Rating: 1/5 Joji heads

  1. “I Love You 3000 II” – Stephanie Poetri, Jackson Wang

   The song “I Love You 3000 II” is a remix of Stephanie Poetri’s song, “I Love You 3000.” The song refers to the quote from the film “Avengers: Endgame:” “I Love You 3000.” The song may overuse the reference to the box-office hit and the theme of movies and Hollywood in general. However, this can be overlooked in favor of the perfect airy vocals that sing the song. Jackson Wang joins Poetri in a conversation between two affectionate lovers about wanting to get married, and the duo makes saltwater flow out of everyone’s eyes.

Rating: 5/5 Joji heads

  1. “2 the Face” – Rich Brian and Higher Brothers

   The song “2 the Face” describes the wealthy life Rich Brian and Higher Brothers are living. The song was written by DZ, McCulloch Sutphin, Montana Wayne Best, Jacob Reske and Rich Brian. “2 the Face” features a unique type of beat and uses auto-tune, which is uncommon for Rich Brian’s music. Fans may find the song rather interesting and good or just weird.

Rating: 3.5/5 Joji heads

  1. “Gold Coast” – Rich Brian

   The song “Gold Coast” is the last track of the album and is written by Rich Brian and Christian Dold. It features vocals from Rich Brian reminding us of his album, “The Sailor.” The song represents Rich Brian’s style well but is overshadowed by the glory of other songs on the list. 

Rating: 4/5 Joji heads

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