Reviews

Jon Batiste “World Music Radio” Album Review

World Music Radio

Jon Batiste

  • Genre: Pop
  • Date: 18 Aug, 2023
  • Content: Not-explicit
  • Track(s): 21
  • A Verve Records and Interscope Records release; ℗ 2023 Naht Jona, LLC, under exclusive license to Verve Label Group, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.

Jon Batiste &Quot;World Music Radio&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, April 21, 2024

A big reason why Jon Batiste has been well-known for so long is because of his role as the affably cool bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert -and also for his great music. But his unexpected Grammy triumph for his 2021 album “We Are” propelled him to a new notoriety and cultural significance. The Louisiana native has released albums since his 2005 debut, ‘Times In New Orleans’, making dents at the top of the US Jazz charts.

Additionally, he served The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s band for seven years before his illustrious tenure ended in 2022. His album “We Are,” which incorporated hip-hop, jazz, and pop and featured upbeat lyrics highlighting the influence of black culture, won five Grammys that year, including the coveted Album of the Year honour. The title’ World Music Radio’ refers to a radio frequency broadcast across the universe inspired by a news article about a super-transmission discovered in space. The album is cinematically presented, with a DJ guiding listeners through each song and collaborators taking on other roles.

Album Art

Jon Batiste &Quot;World Music Radio&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, April 21, 2024

The album art is an image of the eye-closed talented musician as he looks captivated by the music against the backdrop of the skies above and the sun shining in the distance. He listens on a headset with the makings of a radio, complete with an antenna.

Tracks And Features

This comprises 21 tracks and begins with a brief introduction in which a DJ named “Billy Bob Bo Bob” informs listeners that they are about to go on an audio tour of the globe. The first stop is “Raindance,” a song by the duo Native Soul featuring Batiste, who begs, “Give me love for the life of me,” over Afropop textures and dazzling walls of sound. The song begins with a gently bubbling bass line before erupting into complete pleasure. It is the ideal illustration of his capacity to adhere to pop conventions while deviating into inventive space.

‘Drink Water’ is a fidgety song with lyrics about taking a deep breath over spiralling dance sounds by The musician Fireboy DML and singer Jon Bellion. But in this case, a straightforward pop song with hints of reggaeton sounds isn’t enough for Batiste; towards the end of the song, he enlists a chorus to reiterate the refrain “take me to the river,” which emphasizes its cathartic power. The hydro-homies anthem “Drink Water,” featuring Jon Bellion and Fireboy DML, is the nadir of this motivational-poster lyricism with its adamant reminders to, you guessed it, drink water. When Batiste does get a little more specific—reminding us on “Be Who You Are” that he loves Black people, white people, Asians, Africans, Republicans, and Democrats—he betrays a perspective that, despite the lofty one-world rhetoric, remains firmly American.

The approach to universal music taken by “World Music Radio” also entails collaborating with a wide range of locals and artists from various genres. The likes of fellow New Orleanian rapper Lil Wayne, saxophonist Kenny G, Colombian singer Camilo, and K-pop sensation NewJeans all get a turn on the mic. Although the album is vast in terms of sound and scope, brisk featureless tracks like the synth-heavy and soulful “Calling Your Name” or the unusually understated piano ballad “Butterfly” make the journey fly by.

It should come as no surprise that World Music Radio only finds its footing when Batiste turns inward toward the personal and the biographical. It may be prime schmaltz, but the piano ballad “Butterfly” he composed for his wife Suleika Jaouad, who is recovering from her second cancer battle, is a beautiful tribute. But Batiste’s passion for it elevates it nonetheless. Similarly, his full-throated voice and the arena-sized love-rocker “Wherever You Are” soar. The album’s abundance of awkwardly put-together duds, including “Clair de Lune” (with Kenny G, of all people), the inadvertently hilarious country gospel of “Master Power,” and the synth-cheese overload of the sickly sweet “Calling Your Name,” are too few examples of such engaged, emotional songwriting to make up for them.

Listening to Batiste’s music can sometimes feel like a cold game of spot-the-style because his conception of universal music is so indifferent to cultural specificity—apart from the Afro-American traditions he is rooted in. This “seeming dislike” also extends to the lyrics, though to call Batiste’s kumbaya-inspired declarations of solidarity trite would be an understatement. On the tropical-pop rip-off “Raindance,” he begs, “Speak to me nicely.” The English-Spanish-Korean reggae-pop song “Be Who You Are”—featuring guest verses from JID, Camilo, and NewJeans—never manages to shed the weight of its achingly sincere titular exhortation.

“I love you even if I don’t know you,” Batiste’s galactic griot sings in the interlude “Goodbye, Billy Bob,” which serves as the album’s sort of coda. That is a beautiful sentiment. But to truly love someone, one must desire to get to know them and explore their motivations. Regardless of how erroneous and subjective that knowledge may be, to truly love a piece of music, one must try to understand the creator and the social, emotional, and cultural contexts in which it was created. Music can remind us of our shared humanity because of this attempt at knowing—finding connections and similarities with the part of themselves that an artist puts into their work.

The journey comes to an end with “Life Lesson,” where Lana Del Rey’s vocals add a warm layer and a sense of gravitas as she ponders, “You’re happy until you’re not/You’re icy until hot,” their words coming as the strings crawl upward before falling away and putting the duo’s vocals on full display. Batiste also advises, “Don’t second guess yourself” over sharp piano keys. The song’s lyrics culminate in a final “Amen” as it tells a sprawling, heartbreaking story of a relationship’s inevitable demise.

Tracklist

NO TITLE TIME
1 Hello, Billy Bob 1:37
2 Raindance (feat. Native Soul) 3:10
3 Be Who You Are (feat. JID, NewJeans & Camilo) 3:34
4 Worship 4:13
5 My Heart (feat. Rita Payés) 2:26
6 Drink Water (feat. Jon Bellion & Fireboy DML) 2:49
7 Calling Your Name 1:56
8 Clair de Lune (feat. Kenny G) 1:17
9 Butterfly 3:50
10 17th Ward Prelude 0:13
11 Uneasy (feat. Lil Wayne) 5:21
12 CALL NOW (504-305-8269) [feat. Michael Batiste] 3:19
13 Chassol 1:09
14 BOOM FOR REAL 2:47
15 MOVEMENT 18’ (Heroes) 4:35
16 Master Power 3:33
17 Running Away (feat. Leigh-Anne) 5:01
18 Goodbye, Billy Bob 1:33
19 White Space 2:48
20 Wherever You Are 4:51
21 Life Lesson (feat. Lana Del Rey) 4:49

Album Summary

A broad ode to human ingenuity and the limitless capacity of music to foster connection, “World Music Radio” is the aural embodiment of that conviction. With a few notable exceptions, World Music Radio provides few opportunities for viewers to learn more about Batiste, including his struggles, triumphs, and losses. This is due primarily to World Music Radio’s rigid adherence to its premise and Batiste’s insistence on universality. The album lacks that presence, leaving it empty, like a lovely home where no one resides. Despite this absence, the album still captivates listeners with its diverse musical styles and infectious melodies. Each track transports the audience to a different corner of the world, showcasing Batiste’s mastery of various genres and ability to create a truly global sound. However, some may feel that the album falls short of its potential impact without the personal narratives and emotional depth that Batiste’s experiences could have provided.

Stream

Back to top button