Chance the Rapper’s debut studio album The Big Day is inescapably, embarrassingly bad. It seems that in the three years between Coloring Book and The Big Day, Chance has lost some fundamental aspect of his musical identity.
The first three songs present the only strong sequence of ideas to be found across the bloated, 22-track project. “All Day Long” is a high-energy opener, nothing to write home about but fun enough to listen to. “Do You Remember” is a highlight, thanks in large part to an elegant if slightly mawkish hook, courtesy of Ben Gibbard. “Eternal” is a solid, groovy effort featuring a creative and soulful verse from Smino.
After that, it all goes off the rails. If you’ve ever listened to “Womp Womp” by Valee and thought to yourself, “Man, I really like this song, but I wish it had more lines about trying to go to sleep and also was a whole lot worse in every way,” then I highly recommend you check out “Hot Shower.” If you’re like me, and this does not sound like something you would enjoy, the track would best be skipped. Dababy provides some last-second life support with an excellent verse, but it’s not enough to redeem this subpar, plagiaristic misfire.
The next three songs (“We Go High,” “I Got You (Always and Forever)” and “Roo”) are good efforts and worth giving a listen if you’re attuned to Chance’s overarching vision. Everything after that ranges from forgettable to embarrassing. There are so many confounding decisions Chance made here. Why are there almost five minutes worth of skits? Why did the maddening “Found a Good One (Single No More)” merit inclusion on an already-bloated tracklist? Why is he letting every single guest who isn’t named MadeinTYO or Francis Starlite outshine him? Why did he think “Hey there, lovely sister / Won’t you come home to your mister? / I’ve got plans to hug and kiss ya” (“Let’s Go On The Run”) was a good line? I don’t have the answers.
“The Big Day,” the title track, the centerpiece of the album’s narrative, is an incoherent mess. The lyrics are laughable: “The only way to survive is to go crazy” sounds like something Heath Ledger’s Joker would say. The beat is slow and plodding, creating a sense of claustrophobic anxiety that I’m certain wasn’t intended to be conveyed on a happy song about his wedding day. Francis Starlite’s vocals are terrible. The jarring screaming halfway through the track, aside from sounding suspiciously similar to Frank Ocean’s outro on “Biking,” is a complete and utter failure that takes the listener out of whatever semblance of an emotional atmosphere that has been created up to that point.
As a fan of most of Chance’s previous work, I find The Big Day to be bitterly disappointing. This is the type of album that you release after you’ve surrounded yourself with yes men and spent your free time shooting Kit-Kat commercials and riffing with the Wendy’s Twitter account. This is the type of album you make when you’re resting on your laurels.
It seems as though Chance has lost the ability to make his life seem compelling. Where did his sense of humor go? His willingness to be weird and experimental seems to now be limited to trying on the stylings of other artists, mere artistic mimesis. The vibrancy of 10 Day, Acid Rap and Coloring Book are nowhere to be found, and it’s hard to believe that the person responsible for those three projects was involved with The Big Day at all.
Listening to The Big Day produces in me the same uneasy feeling as watching a commercial, the sense that I am being somehow tricked. It is plastic soul, the worst effort Chance has put out to date, and (puts fingers to temples) I predict it will be nominated for several Grammys. I fear that this record is so tedious and self-absorbed as to be indicative of the end of Chance’s artistic relevance. I hope he proves me wrong.