Album Review/Lyrical Analysis of Daniel Caesar’s Case Study 01

BY JOHN CARTER JR


“So maybe my ego’s outta control. Can that be avoided, I don’t know,” – Daniel Caesar, Entropy

Daniel Caesar’s debut album Freudian was met with a high concentration of critical acclaim and success. This was due to the excellent crooning and silky smoothness of his voice, the rhythmic and intelligent lyrics of his music, and the sweet slow-paced sound of the majority of the tracks. With the recent release of his sophomore album, Caesar definitely falls flat in terms of the very traits that distinguish him from other modern R&B artists. His performance of sensual sexual lyrics and vocals were out and taking their place is faux sapiosexual arrogance in the lyrics, on many of the tracks of the album, and a rough unpolished sound to those same tracks. (When I say arrogance there is a literal manifestation of that trait in these lyrics which is highly disappointing and it doesn’t seem to represent what Caesar has stood for thus far). 

That is not to say that this album has no high-quality tracks, because it certainly does have a few. This would make this album not necessarily a complete mess that makes it about three steps short from greatness. Let’s look at some of the highlights and some of the questionable tracks on this album to see how Caesar can improve for his next installment in the discography.

Let’s start off with a lyric analysis of the track “Open Up”, which is by far my least favorite and least respected track on this album. This is the height of the conceited and narcissistic air that this album has to offer. It is the biggest disappointment when it comes to this album and Caesar’s development as a musician. Usually, the tracks on his work, whether it be his debut album or his previous EPs, had a more beautiful commentary on his sexual relationships and the emotional intimacy involved with those, but this is outright disrespectful. Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

“It’s been such a long time

Since I set foot in the club

I really hate this sh*t, don’t I?

I hate feeling rushed, girl, can I just be honest?

I don’t feel like talkin’ unless it’s ’bout me, or philosophy

Can we just get down to business?

And when we’re both finished, then we’ll have a reason to speak

Then you can open up to me, girl

Let me plant my seed, girl

Let me fill your needs, girl

Open up to me, open up to me”

At the beginning, the song seems to be starting out well just being his commentary about how he doesn’t like the club scene but then completely u-turns into a wealth of narcissism and condescension which seems completely out of place for Caesar’s previously established character in the themes of the music in which he was going for. It’s not that his vocals are bad in this piece but they are off enough to take you out of it. What usually is the deliverance of beautiful and intimate words carried by an elegant and soft voice is the deliverance of vulgarity which borders on misogyny. 

Now I am sure there are plenty of great-sounding songs with similar themes but not in Danny boy’s discography. It makes me wonder how much of this was influenced by producers or outside pressures to present a different image. As Caeser has been called gay by Dave Chappelle and sparked a whole controversy behind him.  

Like mentioned before the album did have some very good tracks including “Entropy”, “Cyanide” (having the best line from the album: “Rich Dark Chocolate, Sweet Melanin”), “Frontal Lobe Muzik”, and others. Most of these tracks trying to reference some sort of research scientific topic while also delivering those sensual sounds is hard at some points with some of these tracks but is done well in the case of the aforementioned ones. “Entropy”, for example, uses concepts concerning thermodynamics in physics, although deviating from Caesar’s traditional psychological roots, is an interesting amalgamation of the scientific and the biblical.

The line: “on the Sparrow” seems to reference both the biblical roots of that line but also references previously established R&B artists like Lauryn Hill. While “Frontal Lobe Muzik” might be the closest thing to an actual reference to human psychology (other than the humanistic perspectives found in the excellent superposition), it still fails to commit to its sensual/scientific aesthetic.

“You know how I feel

I’m in love with you still, yeah

It helps, but it kills

Your lovin’, your lovin’

It hurts, it heals

It breaks but it builds, ooh, yeah

Your power and your will

Your lovin’, that’s your lovin’

Wanna feel something I can feel

I know the things that I been feelin’, they ain’t real

Wanted to know what it felt like for them to like me

Now I know, I gotta say, it’s mighty frightening

Wanna use it, use my frontal lobe

But these feelings took this sh*t around the globe

The frontal lobe is in charge of the rational thinking processes of the brain. The song tries to use this understanding of the frontal lobe to make a statement that love negates the effects of rational thinking. It uses the frontal lobe’s perceived irrationality as the personification of this. The song however quickly loses is continuity and pace my commenting on the performer’s accomplishments, more particularly in specific how he achieved them. 

Lyrics like these performed again by Caesar, don’t necessarily represent what he had been going for up until this album and hopefully don’t represent the future of his work. Maybe this type of lyrical styling works in other pieces but it creates a depth of dissonance specifically in his albums. Sometimes dissonance can be used to the benefit of the viewer/listener by a creator of any project whether it be a film or album but in this case, the dissonance is distracting and jarring. It is even more noticeable in the case of this album as a lot of the tracks fill unfinished or rushed. No amount of John Mayer or Pharrell William’s styling will make up for that.

n conclusion, this album overall was a disappointment in that it could have been so much better. If it was more carefully made an attempt to be a successor to the psychological and smooth, Freudian album then maybe this album would have succeeded. *Read our review of Freudian, here* That’s not to say that the album should have been the same but if the thematic approach was that, and it is most definitely heavily implied that it was, It should not have abandoned what the predecessor did so well. 

Whether it be the lyrics or the unfinished sound quality of the work or simply the rushed feel that some of the tracks seem to have then maybe this album could have been better than what it was. That isn’t to say that this album doesn’t show hope, as the remnants of Daniel Caesar’s previous styling are still present and the presence of some new quality is here, we just hope that eventually upon the release of Caesar’s third album he will be able to develop something new through the experience of his win and his loss in the form of his previous entries in his discography. Only time will tell if the next album will be excellent in its own way, but there is definitely hope. 

I give this album a 6 out of 10 for its mediocre quality in many areas but its potential to have been so much more.

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