Broke With Expensive Taste is an album that begs to be listened to in its entirety, even with its unusual length — 16 songs measuring in at 60 minutes and 19 seconds. Most of the songs sound quite similar, but not in a trite, boring way; each track transitions smoothly into the next, giving the illusion that the album might just be one incredibly long and satisfying harmony.

Broke With Expensive Taste

A
Azealia Banks
Prospect Park


The album opens with “Idle Delilah,” a haunting track whose main riff pops up again in later songs, such as “Soda” and “Miss Amor,” continuing the illusion of a single, hour-long composition. “Idle Delilah” itself begins with a beat from a drum and synthesizer, slowly building to adding in a kick drum. While the rhythm is pretty steady and simple, it has an anticipatory feel to it. When Banks’s voice comes in a couple beats later, with its airy timbre, it’s as if the top has been taken off of the boiling pot of water.

Banks’s debut showcases her knack for innovation, and in this way, “Idle Delilah” sets the tone for the rest of the album. The song has no clear structure, and in what could possibly be considered the bridge, the mating calls of a primate are dubbed over the new, bell-like beat. And, somehow, it works.

The second track, “Gimme A Chance,” switches into Spanish in the second half of the song; “Desperado” features a radio DJ introducing the tune in a meta sort of way; “Heavy Metal and Reflective” opens with a sound that could either be construed as sweeping or the bustle of a FedEx mailroom; “Ice Princess” fittingly showcases the sound of a (presumably) cold wind blowing; and multiple tracks contain trumpets blasting. She creates music out of everyday life.

Banks pushes the boundaries of traditional music conventions, and, for the most part, she succeeds, creating such wonderful beats and melodies that the unconventional aspects of the songs work in their favor. She pairs synthesized beats with drums, with xylophones, with trumpets, with the sultry timbre of her voice in a expertly mastered paradox.

Where she falls flat is on track 14, “Nude Beach A Go-Go.” While the song fits with the rest of the album by continuing some overtly sexual themes, the music, melody and lyrics about drinking Coca-Cola cause it to feel more like a country song than the electro-hip-hop of the rest of the album. It’s unclear whether this song was meant to be even more innovative than the rest of the album and just fell horribly flat, or whether it’s meant as a joke or even a slight at the rest of the music industry.

Whatever Banks intended, the song interrupts the flow of an otherwise seamless track order. (I actually mistook it for a corny jingle on a Spotify commercial when it came on.) In some ways, it’s also one of the most traditional songs on the album, sporting a traditional verse-chorus form and only clocking in at 2 minutes and 20 seconds, whereas most other tracks are 4-5 minutes. It doesn’t fit, and, frankly, it’s obnoxious to listen to, while the rest of the tunes are so soothing that they almost put the listener in a trance.

What should be juxtaposed with this trance-like state of listening are the lyrics to “212,” in which Banks intones, “she wanna lick my plum in the evening,” followed by, “and fit that tongue deep in. I guess that cunt getting eaten.” Yet, there is something in the way Banks performs, an assuredness, that makes what is probably considered one of the worst words in the English language perfectly normal to utter. Considering a good portion of the lyrics in the other tracks on the album isn’t easy to comprehend (a quality that, normally frowned upon, adds to the trance-like quality of her songs), it seems Banks is once again pushing the boundaries here, making a statement. And, once again, she succeeds.

On Broke With Expensive Taste, Banks creates such an environment that the album could be listened to as a lullaby or bumped at a club. She soothes, but she provokes. She follows tradition, but she toes the line. She goes hard on tracks like “Yung Rapunxel,” but she lightens up on tracks like “Wallace.” She almost creates a new genre: not quite hip-hop, not quite dance, not quite electronic, not quite rap, but completely Azealia Banks.

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