Album review: T-Pain – OBLiViON

Late 2000’s R&B fans will be thrilled to hear of T-Pain’s latest album release “OBLiViON”, but as the phoenix rises from the flames, will he be able to reach his former heights?

Teddy Pain, better known to the world as T-Pain was once the king of MTV Base, churning out countless infectious, unforgettable tracks around 2008/2009. His songs ranged from themes of love, to strip clubs and late night drinking. These lavish themes glamorised the party lifestyle, excess and vices, but there is also a softer side to his musical output. T-Pain’s trademark auto-tuned vocals gained him as many haters as it did fans, but it is a distinctive sound that has now been impersonated countless times.

Since his decline from around 2011 onwards, he passed the crown onto the next generation of computerised voices, and now in 2017 it is hard to find a pop track without auto-tuned vocals. It has become less of a taboo, and the stigma surrounding its use has made way for many top hits which utilise the effect. Especially within modern dancehall / bashment, as well as R&B and hip-hop, T-Pain’s influence is unmissable. T-Pain fans recently heard his raw vocals for the first time, courtesy of a video which featured him singing alongside acoustic instruments. Of course, it went viral and aside from being shocking, it was also undeniably spine-tingling.

Fortunately for those hoping for some classic T-Pain vocals, the album’s opener delivers. “Who Died” does feel like a revamped style though, using recognisable, contemporary techniques such as tape-stops, booming 808 bass, and hi-hat rolls. “Classic You” features Chris Brown, who appears to still feel comfortable singing about violence, even after admitting to beating his ex-girlfriend Rihanna.

The majority of OBLiViON is fairly feeble, but even a half-hearted T-Pain sounds better than some of the weak R&B artists who are on top at the moment. “That’s How It Go” begins with an overused, but classic saxophone sample, before dropping into another cliché rap beat that could have been produced by anybody. This is unfortunately something that can be said about many of the passable instrumentals. They do just enough, and will no doubt get many clubs popping, but there is hardly any forward thinking rhythms or melodies here. At least the album takes influence from a few different areas, such as G-funk on “May I”, classic soul on “Cee Cee From DC”, and future bass on “She Needed Me”.

Girls inspire many of the tracks story’s and titles, from phone sex (“Pu$$y On The Phone), drunk texts (“Textin’ My Ex), or bedding his girlfriend’s friends (“Your Friend”). These are an entertaining alternative to the standard love songs, but they are often as loose as T-Pains morals appear to be. The album’s colder moments certainly add some contrast, like on the Blac Youngsta collaboration “Goal Line”, which holds its own against any of this year’s trap-hits, and would give Migos a run for their money. This modernised version of T-Pain brings his sound up to date, whilst leaving enough nostalgia there for his older fans. Ty Dolla $ign and Ne-Yo also feature as the album draws to a close, without causing too much of a stir.

Sixteen tracks may be a few too many for OBLiViON, and the overall quality is definitely diluted, but with so long out of the game it is unsurprising that he wanted to showcase a large body of work. It is a pleasure to hear him sing again, and the project caters for both his male and female listeners. His second chance is acknowledged on the aptly titled outro “Second Chance (Don’t Back Down)”, as he sings ‘In this crazy world / we all deserve a second chance’. Come and give T-Pain a second chance at your local Richer Sounds in one of our demo rooms.