Bladee: Cold Visions Album Review

April 30, 2024 - Music

Amid the chaos, Bladee pauses to take stock of things with striking lucidity given his usual tendency to abstract and arrive at ideas from oblique angles. He dropped his first solo tape, Gluee, just about a decade ago, back when he was known as Yung Lean’s sidekick. Now at 30, he’s experiencing something like a mid-career crisis. “I got so old, I got embarrassed to even be here, you know?” the intro goes. He’s aware of his immense influence on a new generation of internet musicians, but also feels more personally fucked up and worse off than he was as a fresh-faced 18-year-old. The gorgeously glum “Flatline” conveys Bladee’s sadness about letting someone down—possibly himself?—with some of his most expressive vocals ever, fluttering between hushed murmurs and frail cries; as he repeats how he’s suffocating in “dark feelings,” his tone mirrors the dismay by slowly dropping in pitch.

For as agitated as this album can be, it’s also sweetly silly in classic Bladee fashion. “Lows Partlyy” is eerily joyous, its blooming synths juxtaposing wildly with the depressive lyrics lurking beneath. “Burn down the disco, hang the fucking DJ,” Bladee coos at himself, sounding blissed-out. Some lyrics recall the gibberish aphorisms and cutesy riddles of his 2021 Fool era. He talks about “violently drug abusing weed” and accidentally buying 1,000 Smurfs toys while browsing eBay on shrooms. He scorns people for watching YouTube Shorts and says he paints better than Rembrandt. Lines that might feel dead in print electrify the ear through Bladee’s agile vocals, twitching with odd mouth-noises and tone-switches, like how he randomly chirps “I’m back!” as if he’s returning home from work in the twilight haze of “Flexing & Finessing.”

While Cold Visions may not be his swan song, there’s definitely a feeling of a closing chapter. The album is haunted by ghosts from Bladee’s past; nearly every song makes some kind of allusion to a previous release. He namedrops track titles like “Everlasting Flames” and “Redlight Moments.” Previously established lore about the mystical Drain Gang High School gets developed more on the snarling “Don’t Wanna Hang Out.” Old audio logos rematerialize, like the “Blade” tag taken from the 1998 movie Blade and the Sad Boys “profound sadness” effect lifted from Street Fighter IV. Veteran drainers are combing through this album in group chats, building a master doc to catalog every interpolation and reference.

One minute, Bladee’s wondering whether his cultish fans understand him (“Every time I check the comments I’m thinking like, ‘Do they even deserve me?’”). Later, he doubts whether he’s achieved anything that warrants worship: “The vision is clear, but I’m nowhere near.” It sounds like he’s collected his past lives and sonic memorabilia together for himself as much as for the fans. He’s looking at it all, questioning what his musical accomplishments mean. There’s no clear answer; Bladee hasn’t discovered true happiness or reached enlightenment. By the album’s end, he sounds exhausted yet ecstatic, like he’s shedding a great weight. The music swells and shimmers. “I’m like you, I’m living and I’m learning,” he sings, dissolving into the noise.

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