Jaden aimed for the stars on ERYS, and for that you can admire him in a way, but his musical shortcomings will always rear their ugly heads. He just comes across like an artist who isn’t anywhere near as woke as he wants us to think he is, and huge budget production won’t hide the fact he is borrowing everyone else’s style rather than crafting his own.
Jaden Smith is a child star turned musician, actor and entrepreneur, dipping his fingers in many different pies across popular culture. What is admirable about Jaden’s approach is that, despite his clear head-start in life with being the son of Jada & Will Smith, he has always been eager to distance himself from that famous offspring tag.
On a humanitarian level, I have nothing but respect for the way Jaden has shown his desire and determination to leave a positive stamp of the world; helping homeless shelters, the fight on climate change and poverty in third world countries. There’s no doubting his good will and nature, and using his platform like that is a wonderful thing to see from such a young man. Musically, however, I have always found it difficult to get on board with what he is doing.
His debut album SYRE came out in 2017 and just reeked of pretentious god complex rap to me. Jaden came out swinging and tried making a larger than life effort which would make people call him a genius. There’s a fine art to being a genius, and trying too hard is a surefire sign that you aren’t one. While there were obvious signs of ability to make the odd banger, SYRE made my eyes roll more than widen.
So, ERYS, the follow-up effort. Yes, it’s SYRE backwards, so you could have a fairly solid guess that this was going to share a similar kind of narrative and style; and you would be absolutely correct. Much like it’s predecessor, ERYS begins with a four song run in which the titles spell out a colour, this time opting for P I N K rather than B L U E. The four songs to open this up are grandiose spectacles, using rich instrumentation to create a real sense of anticipation; P I N K feels like a real moment. K in particular is crazy, ending the track with a sample of some barber razors and quite frankly it is hard as fuck.
Sadly, what followed was much of the same story of SYRE. Blown-out trap beats, muffled autotuned vocals and a whole lot of ripping off. Whether it’s Brockhampton, Tyler The Creator, Travis Scott or 808s era Kanye West, Jaden just seems to be hellbent on making the same music as his heroes. I don’t have the slightest issue with taking inspiration from artists, but you put your own stamp on it, don’t just mimic them.
The song NOIZE is a mish mash of XXXTentacion styled vocals, brash and abrasive trap drums and an obnoxious hook; saved only by a choppy feature by Tyler, The Creator. Being saved by a feature is very much the tale of the tape with ERYS, as Jaden gets help from his A-list friends to pull through on songs and give them a more interesting flavour. Chateau has a really great A$AP Rocky verse, On My Own has a stellar Kid Cudi hook (obviously) and Summertime In Paris has some wonderful vocal melodies from his sister Willow. That isn’t an entire disservice to Jaden though, he more than holds his own on the songs and I think the three mentioned there are obvious hits in the making.
Thematically it’s all over the place. There’s a couple of songs on here, Riot and Blackout to be precise, that sound like they belong on Lil Nas X’s 7 EP. The fact Jaden has gone for this weird emo rock/rap fusion baffles me, especially given that he doesn’t really have the power in his vocals to carry that sort of instrumental; that doesn’t stop him trying, though. You know how people joked about Kanye’s Yeezus being like a Hasbro “My First Experimental Rap Album”? Well this blows Yeezus out the water for that, it sounds like noise for the sake of noise.
The run-time is too long, songs feel too bloated and the ideas are cringeworthy as well as loose. There are genuinely good songs on the album, that’s the thing, but the sour taste cannot be removed from ERYS simply for how blissfully unaware it is. Jaden has gone all out to try making a mind-altering masterpiece, but really it’s a loose fragmentation of other artists’ work. I want nothing but the best for Jaden, but in order for him to reach that he needs to discover his own sound, improve on his songwriting and accept that not everything needs to be an experimental face-melter.