Giving us perhaps one of the most highly anticipated R&B albums of the year, Brent Faiyaz did not come to play with his 2022 album WASTELAND. Personally, Faiyaz’ new album comes as a great relief as I write to you from the Dallas Fort Worth airport, eating slightly disgusting airport food on hour eight of a 13-hour travel day.
Stacked with features from start to finish, Faiyaz gives us everything one expects with his music: gaslighting asides, superficial honesty, and a little heartbreak. And what are we to do but eat it up?!
From the very start of “Villian’s Theme,” we are met with an orchestra of voices setting the scene for the several interludes between Faiyaz and a girlfriend named “MAIN GIRL,” as well as Faiyaz’ trademark backing sound—the violin pizzicato. In true Brent fashion, the first full-length song “LOOSE CHANGE” gives us the lyric “I remember when you couldn’t tell me a thing/ Now you talk so much it drives me insane.” As a third party observing Faiyaz’ relationship with MAIN GIRL, you’re left wondering why she would ever stay with him. But as the album continues, we see his charm take over time and time again. Notably in “PRICE OF FAME,” and again in true Brent fashion, we hear “I never said I was the best in the world/ But I’m the best for you, girl.” The thing is, Brent, I don’t think you’re either of those things. But listen on, I must.
In essence, a great Brent Faiyaz song brings only mild concern about his behavior, as you’re too busy singing along to notice his self absorption and toxicity. Notably, TikTok has taken to analyzing Faiyaz’ lyrics (and laughing at his gaslighting lyrics). TikToks such as “Most Toxic Brent Faiyaz Lyrics: Part 5” have turned the tide to a greater trend at play. But for Brent Faiyaz’ music, all press is good press.
The singles released prior to WASTELAND have held their own in fame and recognition. “GRAVITY” has arguably achieved the most fame of any song on the album thus far, which surprises given the album’s features. Tyler, the Creator’s collaboration with Brent Faiyaz has become far more famous than Faiyaz’ collaboration with Drake. While “WASTING TIME” checks off all the boxes, the song fell short of what a Brent Faiyaz and Drake collaboration should entail. Don’t get me wrong, the song is good. It’s just not great.
The same criticism is valid for “GRAVITY,” as it’s not Brent’s typical sound. However, Tyler, the Creator’s stylistic influence on the song turns it into an excellent one. As a longtime fan of Tyler, the Creator’s music, I can’t help but love the combination between Tyler, the Creator’s typical piano riffs and Faiyaz’ upbeat singing voice. However, the same does not go for “WASTING TIME”– I was left wanting more from their song together.
“DEAD MAN WALKING” and “PRICE OF FAME” stand with “GRAVITY” as the best Brent singles prior to WASTELAND’s release. The songs uphold the aforementioned pillars of a great Brent Faiyaz song (read: Brent singing about being a bad guy), but in a way that causes you to sing along and bob your head to the beat. These singles gave everything that a Brent Faiyaz single promises — beat switches, toxicity, and singable lyrics.
One album upset that took me by surprise was the disappointment from “GHETTO GATSBY,” Faiyaz’ song with Alicia Keys. Upon its release, “GHETTO BABY” held so much potential for profound lyricism and incredible vocals, and yet it is perhaps the most boring song on the album. Underwhelming lyrics and a bass line with little movement create a lackluster song, but Alicia Keys’ raspy singing redeems what it can from the song.
At the risk of sounding excessively negative, the interludes and skits were completely unnecessary to this album. I hold the position that any such interlude should only be used when absolutely necessary, when the storytelling of the album cannot function without it. And yet, all we hear from these sidebar conversations are continued gaslighting from Faiyaz — nothing new here. These interludes turn what would have been an excellent EP into an average album. Were it up to me, WASTELAND would have been a well-timed, well-placed EP, rather than a seemingly rushed album.
While a few of the songs on the album missed the mark, the rest filled in the gaps. The latter half of the album would create the perfect Brent Faiyaz EP had the songs been together in a stand-alone collection. Typically, I rate songs by how well I can picture myself singing them in the car (the industry standard rating system), and all of these songs pass that test with flying colors. “ROLE MODEL” might be the song that’s easiest to imagine during a car ride sing along. The energy of the song reminds me of “Industry Baby,” but more in the style of a slowed, reverb, Youtube-remix “Industry Baby.” The trumpets in the chorus build up the tension that is released at the end of the song in a symphony of string instruments, bringing to life the violin pizzicato theme that repeats throughout WASTELAND.
Many of the songs on the album were worth a listen once, but I’m not sure that many will make it into my weekly rotation. However, one song that I know will be on my playlist is “FYTB.” The catchy riff and great beat create the potential for a
good song, but it’s JOONY’s feature that elevates the song to greatness.
Interestingly enough, the verse sounds close to a copyright case with Jack Harlow’s “What’s Poppin,” perhaps adding to the catchiness of the song. “JACKIE BROWN” and “BAD LUCK” will also likely make it into my weekly rotation.
Faiyaz’ singing and the classic backing violin sounds inspire all the feelings of a classic Brent song, and I can’t help but love him for it. And who am I to deny a goosebump-inducing chord progression, I’m only human!
After reviewing the album in its entirely, I feel no closer to deciding if it is holistically a good album.
I absolutely love Brent Faiyaz and his music, but there were moments in the listening process that I felt at a loss as his fan and supporter. Maybe every album is just a collection of hits and misses, and sometimes the ratio between the two suffers.
I’m staying on the lookout for more music to review, and I hope you follow me in the process!
Until next time, don’t forget — sky’s not the limit just the view!