Thaiboy Digital - Back 2 Life Music Album Reviews

Thaiboy Digital - Back 2 Life Music Album Reviews
On his first album in three years, the Bangkok-based Drain Gang rapper taps into the group’s customary sentimentalism, but the rote lyrics and beats fail to convey much genuine emotion.

Thaiboy Digital is an underdog’s underdog. The Bangkok-based rapper (aka Thanapat Bunleang) made his mark as a member of Sweden’s Drain Gang, dropping digitally dissociated anthems alongside his comrades Bladee and Ecco2k, but his deportation from Stockholm to Bangkok in 2015 left him sidelined during the group’s steady rise. Even from a distance, though, Thaiboy has claimed his place in the Drain Gang holy trinity. He may be less overtly experimental than his peers—his more straightforward hip-hop sound sits somewhere between Ecco2k’s dreamy cloud crooning and Bladee’s sadboy swagger—but he’s made up for it with his smooth, silvery flow, a keen ear for infectious ad-libs, and the open-hearted sincerity he brings to his songs. His debut album, 2019’s Legendary Member, is one of the collective’s tightest releases; its pillow-soft beats and heavenly bangers cut to the core of what makes Drain Gang’s universe so mesmerizing.

This has been a big year for Drain Gang, who have dropped a string of acclaimed albums and toured the world. After a fallow couple of years, Thaiboy finally reappeared and threw his hat into the ring as well: Released earlier this year, his single “I’m Fresh” is an ecstatic, 99-second lo-fi sugar high whose drill-inspired rhythm and hypnotically repeated titular phrase make for a blissed-out—and hilarious—hypebeast self-affirmation. But on Back 2 Life, his first album in three years, that same energy is nowhere to be found. Where singles like “I’m Fresh” and even 2020’s “Yin & Yang” dissolved Thaiboy’s feel-good flexing into an ethereal haze, Back 2 Life takes zero creative chances, settling into a monotonous procession of uninspired verses and floaty trap instrumentals that sound like the result of plugging “Yung Lean” into an AI beat generator. It’s a huge missed opportunity to show just what Thaiboy brings to the Drainer empire, and as much as you want to root for him, there’s little reason to reach for Back 2 Life over any other Drain Gang release.

The guiding arc of Back 2 Life follows Thaiboy’s return to the music world after a quiet few years, and even after all this time, it’s clear that being separated from his crew has taken an immense psychic toll. “I had my heart turn cold for likе seven years,” he declares on the opening “Dreamworld,” over a piano bed straight out of Kingdom Hearts. The phrase “seven years” repeats like a mournful mantra throughout the album, suggesting his determination to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, the music doesn’t show that same conviction. Most of the trance-inspired beats on the album come from Loesoe of “Miss The Rage” fame, and while he delivers on Thaiboy’s proclaimed goal of evoking “Future on a legendary DJ Tiësto song,” the sluggish, repetitive tempos and spacey samples are more tedious than transcendental. “Angel” opens on a dystopian synth tone that feels as if it might lead somewhere epic but ends up in cloying lines about “tears flowing downstream” and generic paeans to his wife (including a particularly goofy chorus: “Only your lips I want to kiss/I never miss/Only one kiss, I enter the bliss”). While this fearless embrace of cheesy sentimentality is a huge element of what makes Drain Gang special, it only works when wrapped up in forward-thinking production and imaginative lyrics. Without either, it’s hard to buy into these songs as any kind of genuine emotional release.

Even in the moments where Back 2 Life seems like it’s beginning to gain some steam, ploddingly slow songs invariably nuke the energy. After the title track revs up with an accelerating synth arpeggio, the beat drop goes limp as Thaiboy listlessly intones platitudes over an empty field of reverberating bass. The similarly lethargic “Fate” has the tired sway of a botched karaoke song, as Thaiboy saccharinely sings, “You and me, you and me, forever.” After a dramatic pause, he concludes the thought with the groan-worthy, “...and ever, and ever.” This kind of sleepwalking makes it all the more frustrating when brief flashes of Thaiboy’s originality do peek through, such as in the twinkling beat that powers the Mechatok-assisted “Alive,” or on the Bladee-featuring “The Kingdom,” where Thaiboy raps, “We only got like one life, then we disappear,” letting that offhanded “like” do some major metaphysical heavy lifting.

Where the other members of Drain Gang have used recent releases to interrogate and expand on the collective’s sound, Back 2 Life does the opposite, settling into a shopworn vibe that’s become overly familiar. Most songs show you everything they have up their sleeve within the first 15 seconds, leaving Thaiboy to drift aimlessly, his would-be hero’s journey robbed of its wings. There is a twist at the end of the story, though, when the closer “Never Change” reunites Thaiboy with Drain Gang OG Whitearmor, whose spectral production lifts the song aloft. As his barely there beat stops and starts, Thaiboy’s voice hangs in a still, snowy silence, his calls to “Let it flow, let it flow/Like a river, let it go” echoing peacefully into the dark. The song is a reminder of what Thaiboy is capable of at his peak: rather than simply rinsing over the same clubby rhythms, he glides over the hushed beat with wistful resolve, initiating us into an intimate, celestial world all his own. It’s a shame Back 2 Life doesn’t spend more time there.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Thaiboy Digital - Back 2 Life Music Album Reviews Thaiboy Digital - Back 2 Life Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 05, 2022 Rating: 5


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