By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
Jonathan Park’s debut album, DFD, was perfect. It showcased his velvety smooth, quick flow and was built on masterful production. It reached near mainstream status, hitting number 7 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart as well as number 24 on its Rap Albums chart and cemented Park’s place as one of YouTube’s top emcees.
Park, also known by his stage name Dumbfoundead, released his sophomore album last Tuesday, Oct. 16.
It is not perfect. It is not even close.
Sophomore albums are always a little tricky, but, in this case, everything that was good on DFD — the quick wit, the fast flow, the nice guy sound, the production — is completely gone. In its place is a disjointed effort with no cohesive sound, themes, or vision.
Take the Stares opens with “Stairs Intro,” a bite-sized, airy verse that delivers Dumbfoundead’s classic quick delivery. It’s a hopeful opener and teases listeners with what could be. The image is quickly dashed with track two, S.C.R.a.M.
The transition is jarring. Light synthesized horns and strings yield abruptly to a dark, harsh beat. Park’s verses are horrible — slow, basic, and simplistic. The distorted vocals used in the chorus are a foreboding preview to the rest of the album, which is full of gratuitous voice manipulation that actually subtracts from some songs.
The next transition is just as harsh as the first. The third track, New Chick, is mellow and warm, which is nice, but it doesn’t belong after S.C.R.a.M. To make things worse, the lyrical content is contradicted later in the album.
There are some bright spots.
Growing Young, the first single off the album, and Wine are tracks five and six and are a return to prior form. They feature perfectly produced, simple beats buoyed by strong vocal performances.
Though they’re not as addicting as many of the tracks on Park’s debut album, but they are strong enough to stand on their own right.
Unfortunately, they’re quickly overshadowed by Korean Jesus, the second single and the epitome of all that is wrong with this album. The track features a heavy, obnoxious beat and an unimpressive vocal performance that screams “on trend hip hop.” It sounds as if Park abandoned his own style to emulate Tyga or Drake only to lack the multi-symbolic rhyme schemes that make them so impressive.
Even featured talent wasted. “It’s Not You,” the ninth track, features YouTube star David Choi’s soft and textured vocals. Unfortunately, his strong performance is squandered by a beat that is needlessly complicated. The portion of the song where Choi’s vocals appear unbacked at, hands down, the best.
Take the Stares ends with “Word,” a comforting end as comfortable as a pity hug following a broken heart. It features percussive and fast delivery layered over a beat that rightly takes the back seat, but, just like that hug, all it does is briefly and bitterly remind you of something that no longer exists.
Take the Stares is weak. It’s fractured. It feels like pieces of three separate albums glued to each other haphazardly. The transitions don’t transition, the themes contradict, and, ultimately, it just can’t take the stares.
For more information and to purchase “Take the Stares,” visit www.dumbfoundead.com.
Charles Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.