Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2
2020 – Pop / Rap / R&B
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, the second part of a trilogy of EPs, is a fun, engaging and representative project that features well-written lines and a sharp production.
We can hardly see artists from other countries shining at the top of the American charts. As much as Latin music has managed to conquer a little of this space in recent years, you will almost never see French, Indian or Brazilian songs among the most played of the United States. Unlike what happens in other countries, where we find American music playing almost all year round. This American hegemony in the music industry often blocks countless great artists, and when it doesn’t, works that reach U.S. are rarely representative. Fortunately, the streaming and music journalism has been changing this increasingly, revealing rare gems over the years. Tkay Maidza is one of those and her new EP, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, is an energizing testimony to her values and beliefs.
Being the second part of the three EPs project started in 2018, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 is an extremely interesting set. While Maidza weaves extremely captivating, memorable and intelligent rhythmic lines, she plays with diverse genres and music styles, from Pop and R&B to Rap and Beach Music. However, Vol. 2 is not just a set of eclectic songs that manage to have an oddly well-made connection and shows how versatile the Zimbabwean-born Australian singer is, but it is also a kind of diary for her, where she reports her growth, her empowerment, her confidence in what she believes and how strong she was despite everything. In the opener, “My Flowers,” which begins with electronic noises from a robotic case opening, Tkay sings about her past with a captivating and very well-written song. She sings at the beginning, “I am too young to die/I’m feeling too old to cry,” and completes in the chorus, “My petals fly, they can fly, they can fly/But they can fall if I don’t take my time.” While these and other striking lines are also played for us, rap beat synthesizers do something simple that goes very well with everything here. A great opening for a great project.
Fortunately, this is how the rest of Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 progressed: through very well-written, eclectic, different, captivating and extremely fun tracks. While “24K” is a homogeneous mix between sexy R&B music and something strong coming from Rap, “Shook” starts with a grand energy that is quickly destroyed and replaced by something more rhythm and stripped that shows Maidza in an empowered position. While some synthesizers grow and shrink and others play these incredible samples, Tkay sings confident in her position, “These mans, yeah, I got ’em all shook/Earthquake, yeah, I got’ em all shook/I came, I don’t play by the book/Yeah, I make the bands, yeah, I got’ em all shook.” Furthermore, in “Grasshopper,” she shows herself even stronger with even more powerful vocals while singing one of the best lyrics on the album. She says, “Back then, they ain’t ever wanna see me grow/Took a minute, I stared deep in my soul/Caterpillar, now a butterfly with the doors.” Incredible energy comes out of these bands.
In addition, another great feat of Maidza in Vol. 2 is her ability to make songs from different genres talk as if they were members of the same family. Take as an example the extreme sound difference between “Awake” and “You Sad”. While the first one, a collaboration with JPEGMAFIA, opts for something more dark, violent and intense while the two make a relation between partying all night and ADHD, the last one goes for something more simple, neutral and calm. As huge as this difference is, you don’t feel that these tracks aren’t part of the same project or aren’t made by the same artist. Not even with some marked elements that make this difference even bigger—JPEGMAFIA in “Awake” sings so intensely that at times it almost looked like he was going to lose his voice that contrasts with Maidza in “You Sad,” where she laughs on ex-partner. Some artists already have the difficulty of making songs of the same genre talk to each other, but clearly Tkay doesn’t have that difficulty and she goes beyond.
In the end, the only time the album really seems lost is on the track “PB Jam,” where Tkay seems confused about her lyrics. In some moments Tkay seems to deliver a track about her needing time to understand her and the relationship she is entertaining, however, in other moments she seems to be desperate to make everything happen in the now. In the first verse she sings, “Just a year is what I need”/“I need some time to breathe,” and completes the chorus, “Sticky, sticky, ahh/I be getting tired/Silky smooth alarm/Wake up, wake up, wake up.” However, moments later, she says, “I just wanted you to know/Let’s do now like no tomorrow.” It really isn’t something that matters compared to the well-made sound of the track, however, put alongside Maidza’s other compositions, the track is the weakest on the EP. The last track, “Don’t Call Again,” a collaboration with Kari Faux, ends this little story alongside something more pop that works with classic and fluid instruments from the R&B, Jazz and Pop of the 80s. She finishes, “I said it all/All I need to say” and we can’t wait for Vol. 3.