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Album Review: Jon Bellion comfortably elevates his sound with “Glory Sound Prep”

Jon Bellion performs at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on June 10, 2017. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

“Glory Sound Prep” is the second studio album from Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Jon Bellion. This album feels vivid and autobiographical, and allows Bellion to flex his vocal chops, rapping ability and production in a way that feels more confident and comfortable than any of his previous releases.

What I Loved

Every song on this album sounds like a layer of Bellion’s life being unfolded as the tracklist progresses, and I’m convinced there’s a song on here for everyone.

Bellion hits that happy medium of delivering a message while not coming across as preachy. Whether he’s tackling fame and society on “The Internet,” or reflecting on his life thus far on “Stupid Deep,” his ability to relate to his audience through simple lyrics is what makes me a fan.  

Bellion delivers some of his best and most memorable hooks with songs like “Conversations with my Wife,” “The Internet” and “JT.” I can easily picture thousands of people singing along to these songs, word-for-word, at his shows.

The highlight of Bellion’s album was easily “Adult Swim.” When the song began and I heard the voice of Piccolo from “Dragon Ball Z” for the first time, I lost my mind. It was awesome hearing childhood references about planet Namek and how Bellion’s “power level is amazing.” Bellion also puts on a clinic in lyricism as he effortlessly rapped over three different beats.

Out of the five minutes of clever wordplay, my favorite line was, “I don’t feel guilty when Nike sends me some packages / We still end up in boxes even though we chase packaging.” Whether it was a reference to artists in the music industry being put into “musical boxes” or people chasing materialistic things but ultimately ending up in a casket, this is some of the best rapping I’ve heard from Bellion.

What I Hated

The production. There’s something about Bellion’s music, across the entire catalog, that is distinct — you hear it and immediately know it’s him. To longtime fans these “ticks” are easily recognizable and bring a sense of familiarity and cohesion to Bellion’s music, but can be a little jarring in some cases.

This album falls victim to a bad case of overproduction. Specifically, in “Let’s Begin.” What starts as attention-grabbing orchestral music quickly transitions into traditional boom-bap before ending with a weird synth-filled conclusion with warped vocals from Travis Mendes. This song just goes on way longer than necessary.

“Blu,” “Cautionary Tales” and “Mah’s Joint” all fall victim to this.

When the album was announced with a press release and an animated video featuring a Hogwarts-esque academy called Glory Sound Prep — led by “Headmaster” and UK-based rapper Stormzy — my expectation for a concept album was very high.

But once the album ended, Stormzy’s voice was never heard, and there were very few references to what GSP actually is and what it represents for Bellion.

It is likely more will be revealed in the upcoming months, but it was disappointing that I knew little about GSP by the time the album ended.

Final Verdict

Every week it seems like there’s a new album that comes out with more than 18 tracks and nearly two hours of music, and no one has time for that. Thankfully, Bellion keeps it short and sweet with 10 tracks that sound like different chapters of an audio autobiography. It showed he put time and a lot of effort into the arrangements, the lyrics and the production.

All in all, this was a nice addition to Bellion’s discography and will easily draw in new fans. I’m not ready to say GSP is better or worse than his older work, but he leaves replay value and a lot to unpack lyrically and conceptually.

The lows are few and far between, and when the high points hit, they smack you right in the face.

Favorite Songs: “Conversations with my Wife,” “Adult Swim,” “JT” and “Stupid Deep”

Rating: 3.75/5

 

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