It’s been 51 weeks since Jack Harlow released Come Home The Kids Miss You. The sophomore album charted well, unsurprisingly given the charisma and popularity of its creator, but it was not a good record. Expectation was high. The result was protracted and vapid, proving the many detractors of Harlow’s music right.
The damage was limited by Harlow’s personality shining through on the press tour, and a decent Drake verse on the confessional ‘Churchill Downs’ – a song blueprint that Drake has mastered and only served to prove the gulf between the two at this stage.
Returning with another album less than a year later is therefore understandable. While Jackman won’t win over the existing critics, it sees Harlow better understand his strengths and weaknesses, as well as improve in his own introspective moments. Jackman also sees Harlow take a considerable risk, releasing an album without a single and no clear hit song – both of which he has largely relied on to this point in his career.
At just 10 songs and 24 minutes, Harlow’s clearly recognised he’s not yet capable of holding court over a 45-minute record. Nonetheless, his confidence is unabated on Jackman. This is evident in the album’s supehero-like name and cover art, and also in the project’s lively opener, ‘Common Ground’, which sees Harlow criticise society’s various sects.
The trademark confidence is best on display, however, on ‘They Don’t Love It’ and ‘Ambitious’, the second and third tracks, respectively. Whether or not he is indeed better than Eminem – as he claims – is, in a way, besides the point. He’s rediscovered his cheek and he’s just stirring the pot.
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In the middle part of the album, we get a better idea of who the superhero Jackman really is – human. ‘Is That Ight?’ makes room for self-doubt for the first time on the album, but it’s assured and mature. ‘Gang Gang Gang’ is uncomfortable to listen to, by design. The subject matter sees Harlow grapple with the people around you doing terrible things, and he makes a decent fist of it. His storytelling is not quite as polished as the very best rappers, but he’s a capable lyricist and demonstrates it here on a difficult subject matter.
‘Denver’ is another stand-out track. Stripped back production sees a soft vocal sample on loop, while Harlow’s indifferently delivered lyrics succeed. It is the first time apathy has really worked for him, and sees him come closer to finding the Drake-esque balance of confessing and bragging at the same time.
‘No Enhancers’ is the album’s lowest point, in my view. It’s the closest to something that would have appeared on Come Home The Kids Miss You, embodying so many of that album’s faults – repetitive, heavy-handed, emotionless and unfunny. Thankfully, on ‘Blame On Me’ – the album’s only track over four minutes long – Harlow resurrects things slightly, but it’s still emblematic of a slide towards the end of the album.
Because even Jackman’s outro, ‘Questions’, isn’t quite the contemplative closing tune Harlow would like to think it is. The titular questions are trite, the song’s most interesting point seeing Harlow questioning why so many men fail to believe accusations of sexual impropriety, when they are levelled against close friends.
You can see where Harlow is going with Jackman. It’s a massive step up from Come Home The Kids Miss You, with plenty of room for further improvement.