In the current landscape of music, remaining an enigma is no easy feat. Maximum exposure has become the name of the game and with social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat enabling artists to document their lives — and the public to have an up close and personal look — entertainers are encouraged to make themselves accessible like never before, but R&B crooner PartyNextDoor has managed to retain a bit of mystery as to who he is and what really makes him tick.
Not particularly active on social media, save for the occasional post that sets off a hailstorm of controversy, PND is one to keep it lowkey and dwell in the shadows of the music industry, which is exactly the space he’s occupied since unleashing his debut album, PartyNextDoor Two, in 2014. But that’s not to say he hasn’t had a hand in helping to guide the direction of hip-hop and R&B during his sabbatical, as he scored his first No. 1 hit as a songwriter for penning Rihanna’s “Work” featuring with his OVO benefactor Drake.
Speaking of Drake, PartyNextDoor was also an omnipresence on the Toronto megastar’s past two releases, producing and appearing on “Preach” and “Wednesday Night Interlude” from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, as well as the Views standout, “With You,” further bolstering his track record. With those notches under his belt and the anticipation at a fever pitch, PartyNextDoor has emerged from the darkness to deliver his third full-length project, P3, which is an audio grab bag of melodies and melancholy.
Gunshots greet listeners on the album opener, “High Hopes,” a hazy number that finds PartyNextDoor throwing the kitchen sink at the track, littering harmonic wails one second, channeling Young Thug and Blackstreet the next. Running over seven minutes long, it’s clear that PND intended to make “High Hopes” a monumental moment, but ended up with a serviceable intro that lacks the punch of “East Liberty,” his previous introductory salvo. “Don’t Run” doesn’t fare much better, as the line “You’s a vegan, but you going ham” immediately gets the gas face, but the song manages to regains its footing by the end of the first verse and is sure to entice listeners with its infectious hook and bridge.
P3 finally hits its stride with “Not Nice,” an uptempo, dancehall-inspired ditty that features PND falling victim to the sensuous moves of a temptress. “Don’t, girl, you look so nice/But you’re not nice, you’re rude/Look what you’re putting me through/I’d never do this to you,” he sings. PartyNextDoor enjoys the moment, albeit with a tinge of disapproval that is embedded in many of his songs. The singer’s Caribbean heritage may have manifested itself in the banger that is “Not Nice,” but “Only U” doesn’t translate as fluidly. However, its authentic island vibe saves the day, as PartyNextDoor’s vocal performance comes across as uninspired and is more reminiscent of a karaoke participant rather than one of the brightest talents in R&B.
The sweet spot of the project arrives with “Problems & Selfless,” on which he ponders the root of women’s heartlessness, asking, “Why so selfish when niggas only good to you/’Cause if I don’t love you why don’t you want no one lovin’ me baby/Don’t you want to see me happy babe?” before delving into the topic further on “Spiteful.” Chiding his former flame for her malicious intentions with snide remarks like “I see you takin’ shots girl, I see you ain’t forgot girl,” PartyNextDoor crafts a post-breakup anthem that is sure to get plenty of burn with lovelorn fellas well into the winter months.
“Joy,” the most undeniable tune on P3, features PartyNextDoor’s most impressive display of his vocal talent and wins with its live instrumentation, employing everything from guitars to crashing cymbals and leaves the listener yearning for more. “You’ve Been Missed,” a rare tender and fully vulnerable moment from PND, is equally as potent, with the refrain “It’s so lonely in the six right now,” becoming embedded in your mind by the end of the song’s duration.
Experimentation is one of PartyNextDoor’s more subtle traits, which sets him apart from the pack. This is evident after giving the quirky offering “Brown Skin” a spin. Layering vocals over an off-kilter soundscape that continuously builds throughout the song, PartyNextDoor throws an unexpected curveball to the listeners, garnering himself another quality composition in the process. Released as the lead single to P3, “Come and See Me” features the obligatory Drake feature and is easily of the album’s superior cuts, with rap and R&B’s masters of the late-night text colliding for a collaboration that ranks among their best work together to date.
Closing out P3 with “Nothing Easy to Please,” PartyNextDoor finishes strong, crafting a ballad that encapsulates the inspiration for many of the songs on P3. As PND sings “My love, my love don’t come easy, babe/I’m nothing easy to please, and I don’t fall easily,” you get the feeling that those thoughts were birthed from the experiences and heartache of the man born Jahron Brathwaite, rather than the lavish life and times of the artist known as PartyNextDoor.
Running 16 tracks long and filled with instances of PartyNextDoor venturing outside of his brooding comfort zone and tackling more serene soundscapes, P3 is certainly the most ambitious project the Mississauga native has presented to the public thus far. Whereas PartyNextDoor’s previous installments were littered with glorified mixtape cuts and demos rather than refined compositions, P3 comes across as a more focused effort, but the sums of its parts sound like what we’ve come to expect from PartyNextDoor conceptually: Judgmental thoughts of lover’s past amid raunchy sexcapades and late-night excursions through the Toronto streets.
P3 is an enjoyable listen and includes its fair share of selections that are simply addictive, but as a whole, falls a bit short of the lofty expectations many fans had while looking forward to this project. Rather than being a coronation of an R&B superstar, it is a reminder of the potential as a hit-making solo artist PartyNextDoor has yet to fulfill.
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