When James Blake was born, his parents blessed him with a generic name that is as forgettable as a white house ceremonial dinner. However, his music skills is far from generic, especially when you consider all the big name artists he’s helped make masterpieces in the past (Jay-Z, Beyonce, Frank Ocean and more). Today, the guy who’s played the back more than Nick Foles gets his chance to shine with “Assume Form,” and in my opinion, he certainly doesn’t disappoint.
5. ASSUME FORM
Not a single thing about “Assume Form” is simplistic. The song boasts this piano-heavy instrumental that does a fantastic job of keeping you on a string throughout, jerking you into whatever direction it feels like taking you. Over this instrumental, Blake plays cult leader, imploring listeners to “Leave your head and join the world” throughout. Yes, you are being brain-washed, readers.
Interestingly enough, Blake describes this song as a relatable one for those who are battling depression, despite the joyous vibes he gives off in his lyrical content and high-pitched crooning.
4. LULLABY FOR MY INSOMNIAC
“Lullaby For My Insomniac” is fascinating without being all that interesting. If you were looking for a trap instrumental or some serious bars by Blake here, look elsewhere, because this song is nothing but a mellifluous effort that features angelic harmonizing and minimal lyrical content. Don’t play it during pre-game, let it run if you’re incapable of sleeping, as it will ease your mind better than any warm milk or sheep jumpin’ over cartons and s**t would.
James Blake stated that he literally created “Lullaby For My Insomniac” for a friend that couldn’t sleep. No need to overthink this track, folks!
3. DON’T MISS IT
“Don’t Miss It” is deep. Matter of fact, while I was listening to it, I almost teared up.
So here’s the thing: “Don’t Miss It” is a very mysterious song. For the most part, it is powered by a droopy/distorted instrumental that sounds like it just finished walking home from school in some pouring rain and ripped up clothes. Somehow, Blake instills some hope into the room, providing us with a sweet melody, a hook that starts to resonate after a few listens, and some uplifting lyrical content. As a result, the instrumental starts to bloom into something beautiful, putting one of those smiles on your faces that is complimented by a single tear that you willingly let run down your cheek.
I would’ve ended the album after this song.
2. BAREFOOT IN THE PARK
I’ve always implored musicians to think outside of the box when they make music. No, that doesn’t mean adding Desiigner ad-libs to your song to give it a crazier sound. I’m talking about s**t like dabbling in genres that make you feel uncomfortable. In “Barefoot In The Park,” James Blake does just that, caring less that he sounds like a rookie compared to featured guest ROSALIA. I love the hand-holding that goes on between both singers on the song, and how that eventually makes the topic of understanding the fragility, pureness and vulnerability that should come with falling in love.
1. MILE HIGH
Let’s be real, I rated James Blake’s album because it had some really good hip-hop songs on it. One of them is “Mile High.”
“Mile High” is smoother than the top of Terry Crews’ dome. It features an instrumental that puts you in a daze, giving you an opportunity to fully relax your mind (Thanks, Metro Boomin’ for the ear-massage). From there, Travis Scott and James Blake go back and forth, crooning about bad chicks, interesting club nights and lessons learned along the way. Vocally, both artists sing with everything from nimble to boisterous styles. Unique, right?
Travis Scott’s singing voice is very solid.
SONG BY SONG BREAKDOWN
1. ASSUME FORM (4.5/5)
2. MILE HIGH (5/5)
3. TELL THEM (4.5/5)
4. INTO THE RED (4/5)
5. BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (5/5)
6. CAN’T BELIEVE THE WAY WE FLOW (4.5/5)
7. ARE YOU IN LOVE (4.5/5)
8. WHERE’S THE CATCH (4.5/5)
9. I’LL COME TOO (4.5/5)
10. POWER ON (4/5)
11. DON’T MISS IT (5/5)
12. LULLABY FOR MY INSOMNIAC (4.5/5)
After listening to this album, I felt like I wasn’t qualified to write a review on it, mainly because James presents a level of artistry that is above my 10 cents a year pay-grade. But after giving myself a pep-talk, I decided to tackle that s**t harder than any New England Patriots’ LB you know!
On “Assume Form,” James Blake brought you into his creative, gentle, vulnerable and artistic mind for thirteen tracks. The end-result is a heartfelt effort that I would consider a borderline masterpiece. I know, ‘masterpiece’ is such a critical word to use when describing an album, but here are my legitimate reasons why I think it is: For one, the music pushes boundaries so past the edge, I find it nearly impossible to attach a genre to it. Think about it, you can’t call the project ‘pop,’ because it doesn’t give off much commercial vibes. You also can’t call it R&B, because it lacks a consistent rhythm. So in effort to please every genre, I decided to call it PoR&SOUtronic. Yes, that abbreviation looks ugly, but I still think it looks better than USMCA.
When you’ve been in various studios, worked with several artists, and dabbled in a bunch of different genres, in my opinion, the more and more you are able to truly orchestrate music. To me, James Blake plays a top notch orcherstator on Assume Form — One that lets other artists and producers shine bright, even if that means playing the back. I also found it very impressive how James was able to play student just as much as teacher on this project, adapting to whatever musical environment he was thrown into. That is the sign of a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
As the years have gone by, the way musicians touch on topics such as falling in love and finding the true meaning of life has changed. In my opinion, singers and rappers have complicated things, throwing listeners off with their wild similes and outlandish metaphors to describe it. In Assume Form, I thought it was refreshing to hear an artist simplify his thoughts, opting to let the vibes of the music complicate things. I felt James did a great job of clearly pointing out times he was vulnerable, was in need of love, and most importantly, trying to figure things out in his abnormal world. He practically put his life at the forefront on this project, never really tip-toeing his feelings at all. This made for some truly beautiful music!
James Blake will never end up a household name, and I think I prefer that he doesn’t. If we begin to put him on a pedestal, I fear his revolutionary music will take a turn for the worse. I hope he continues to remain in his small little box, only coming out when an artist that has made it mainstream needs a bit of a humbling. (BTW, he’s worked with Kendrick Lamar before)
Quincy is the creator of Ratings Game Music. He loves writing about music, taking long walks on beaches, and spaghetti that fights him back.