Republished from The Maneater
Kid Cudi is the poster child for apathy. He has persistently portrayed himself as the “lonely stoner,” yet his debut Man on the Moon: End of Day also dubs him “our hero.” He’s lazy and successful — our hero, indeed.
There has always been an idiosyncratic charm to his refusal to auto-tune, his generally out-of-tune singing (thanks, Jay-Z), not to mention his general I-don’t-care attitude toward having lyrics with anything resembling substance. But that charm has faded with his sequel, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.
Cudder’s strength has always been his ear for mid-range melody. He is a rapper that actually spends most of his time singing. But what sets him apart from, for example, Nelly, who sing-raps for pop’s sake, Cudi uses his singing to create a dark-but-not-depressing vibe. His melodies are a connect-the-dots book, and Cudi’s crayon doesn’t always stay in the lines. But in the end, the listener always gets the picture.
That is, until the sequel. Melodies are far scarcer here, and in many tracks, a solitary, above-average melody barely prevents one from fading into dark oblivion.
One exception is “MANIAC,” where Cudi warps indie-rock dame St. Vincent’s vocals into a distorted riff. What’s strange is this marks the second straight album in which Cudi has manufactured an alluring single by sampling a non-hip-hop female vocalist (“Make Her Say” sampled Lady Gaga on Cudi’s debut).
There is an underlying rock vibe to a handful of tracks, best exemplified by “Erase Me,” the answer to the unasked question, “What would happen if a rapper sang lead vocals on a really catchy pop-rock song?” Cudi might not be Blink-182.0, but this is definitely the most radio-worthy song on the album.
Appropriate, considering this genre-dabbling is by far the biggest display of ambition on Cudi’s follow up — apathy appears to have gotten the best of our hero. It must be true what they say — the sequels are just never as good.
Except “The Dark Knight.” That was a really good movie.