This image is from the official Twitter account of Thaiboy Digital.

If there’s one word that describes Thaiboy Digital, it’s confidence. Though he’s a member of the group Drain Gang, his solo work is where he shines. Even as he embraced the bloodsucking haze like his Drain Gang associates — Bladee and Ecco2K — on his earlier work (aided by Whitearmor), he never seemed eager to embody the same “materialistic misanthrope” persona to the same degree. His songs were more materialistic than misanthrope, peppered with boastful claims and goofy lines about refusing marital commitment. It’s honestly amusing. The first song on his debut mixtape, “Haters Broke,” is defined by this incongruence — over a dystopian beat, Thaiboy proselytizes: “All my haters broke.” Fans were drawn to this overwhelming confidence and exuberance, traits that set Thaiboy apart from the rest of his group.

Of course, it’s been eight years since then, and Thaiboy’s life has changed a lot. He was deported from Sweden in 2015 due to visa issues; he moved to Bangkok and started a family in 2020, releasing a string of projects, singles and collaborations with other DG members. But his confidence hasn’t wavered a bit. In accordance with his newfound title as a family man, Back 2 Life entirely leans into his infectious jubilance, becoming a blossoming ode to friends, family and success.

The album opens with “Dreamworld,” which details his rejuvenation: “I had my heart turn cold for like sеven years / Thaiboy Goon how I let it wеnt on like this?” The backdrop doesn’t make for the most powerful introduction, but the wailing vocal sample and soft piano chords reminiscent of anime openings make for a good transition into this victory lap of an album. 

On Back 2 Life, Thaiboy is a buoyant figure. His verses are embedded with the sort of bubbly, relaxed energy of a late-night drive. You almost get the sense that he’s too cool to be here, but as long as he is, he wants us to share in his joy. It makes for a fun listen. “True Love” sees Thaiboy and Yung Lean rave about unconditional love over what can be best described as gameday music, as crowd cheers build up to an electric concoction of trap and festival EDM, an increasingly popular trend in contemporary hip-hop music. Their delivery is breezy and celestial, and as a listener, it feels like I’m stepping into a utopia marked by free love and everlasting raves. 

This attitude prevails across much of the album, but it’s much more lyrically defined. For Thaiboy, problems are a thing of the past, replaced by cherishing the people (and things) most important to him. “Angel” is part love ballad, part Instagram caption fodder, which is weird in theory but ends up sincere and entertaining. Thaiboy brings a certain playfulness, alternating between passionately singing of overcoming hardships with (presumably) his wife and casually throwing out quotes (“Be brave / Hard work will pay”) that could caption a graduation picture. Other songs dedicate lines to additional important people in his life. The three collaborations with Bladee — “All The Way,” “The Kingdom” and “3 Star Reunite” — are all brilliantly catchy, as flashy synths and ascending harmonies paint an image of shimmering nightlife. But more importantly, the songs see the both of them celebrate their friendship and growth together, as Bladee still manages to sprinkle in a couple of his esoteric spiritual references. “The Kingdom” also contains a humorous line about being a father: “My life is a movie, tell my daughter fairytales.” While it may be difficult for non-fans to become invested in these stories of personal growth, Thaiboy is such a lively personality that it becomes difficult to not cheer him on. It also marks a point of lyrical growth. There are still traces of the indulgence of 2019’s Legendary Member, but it’s clear Thaiboy has shifted his focus.

Produced primarily by Loesoe, Rok and Seal, Back 2 Life is kaleidoscopic, brimming with vivid textures and marriages between synths that really do feel like waves of electric currents jolting you back to life. It seems like a continuation of Bladee’s 2021 album The Fool, which was mostly produced by Lusi (who has two credits on Back 2 Life) and similarly contained glistening arpeggios and entrancing leads over bouncy trap drums. While Back 2 Life will probably remain in the shadow of The Fool, it still produces some unique takes on a similar sound. “Love Potion” is hilariously campy. It’s another one of the songs devoted to his wife, as he sings about “making love potions.” The instrumental is also in the same vein as the rest, but the piano chords dance menacingly on top of the beat, which feels like a complete inversion of classic ’70s and ’80s songs. Along with the rest of the album, the vibrant sonics color already vibrant lyrics. 

Back 2 Life isn’t a great album. Its musical ideas, as fun as they are, occasionally feel recycled from past projects, its lyrics can be endearing to the point of cheesiness (“I want to be a 007 type romantic” is a criminal line… and not in a good way) and a song like “Fate” is a slog of a slow burner. But for all its imperfections, it’s just fun. Thaiboy’s music has always been a bit frivolous, with cheeky lyricism and a radiant personality. Back 2 Life simply gives it a new environment to thrive in. So lyrics be damned. When Thaiboy starts unintelligibly mumbling in the middle of “Mr. CEO,” I couldn’t care less about what he’s saying. All I know is that it sounds and feels like a good time.

Daily Arts Writer Thejas Varma can be reached at thejasv@umich.edu.