Bryson Tiller’s ANNIVERSARY & All the Feels
Pen Griffey dishes out a solid album to throw into the quarantine rotation.
The first listen is always exciting. That feeling when you catch an IG post or tweet hinting that an artist’s release is on the horizon. That’s when you drop everything you were doing; the mindless scrolling, abandon the work task you were half-assing, and you rush over to the streaming platform of your choice to scour through the artists’ catalogue in order to discover that new-new.
Brimming with anticipation when your fave drops a new project, the spidey senses start to tingle, telling you that shit’s going to be great.
But the 2nd or 3rd go-round? That subsequent listen is like letting the food marinate in the oven. It’s when you notice things you couldn’t catch the first time because you were on the edge of your seat, working overtime to absorb all that you could.
The second or 3rd listen gives you a chance to relax back into your seat and take mental note of the small things.
That’s when you get into the details. Taking those deep dives allow you to revel in every sound and each layer seems more and more satisfying with every new discovery. That’s how I felt about Bryson Tiller’s ANNIVERSARY.
It’s funny because this time last year, I was consumed with another super satisfying R&B album, Summer Walker’s Over It which was also beautifully produced and executed. I even went back to take a listen in the way it was intended to be listened to, not via shuffle as I’ve been doing over the course of the year.
She goes from, I’ve been waiting so long for a love like this… to…. hit your ass with that one-word reply like, ‘Bet’. Her range is sick.
Over It is interwoven with beautiful ballads like “Potential” that are laced with spacey background vocals that sound like something right off a millennial’s interpretation of a Babyface production, and that’s legit no shade. I need it to be very clear that I love the sound of that entire album and it will forever have repeat status.
But I digress, I can go on and on about Over It. Still obsessed, tell tale signs of a great album.
The very first audio clip of ANNIVERSARY resonates in itself. There’s an excerpt of a man advising someone (we can assume it’s Tiller) about how you gotta get the fuck up out of your head, and just do what you know you’re here to do.
He confirms that it’s not impossible to look up and see that 5 years have flown by and that you’re still not where you want to be over some keys.
“Next thing you know, you ain’t really gonna wana do this shit.” Or something to that effect. Wise words to start off a Tiller joint.
One of the highlights of ANNIVERSARY is “Inhale,” which samples DPat’s “Exhale.”
DPat, who reigns from H-Town, experiments with Mary J’s “Not Gon’ Cry” and SWV’s “All Night Long,” both songs which graced the lovely Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack in November of 1995. Both ballads penned by none other than Babyface himself.
I’m no hater, but the fact that I find joy in this song is only surprising given that the samples aren’t manipulated in attempts to compose an entirely different sounding song. Producers and beat-makers finessing samples into songs that sound different and stand well on their own sound, are typically what I gravitate to. If you’re an R&B nerd, the samples used in “Inhale” are instantly recognizable.
Nonetheless, I found myself fond of the choice to let “All Night Long” play at the end a bit longer than the loop used throughout the song. I felt like it was a nice call, seeing as I keep forgetting that there are legit people younger than me that are full grown adults (I still feel like a kid, most times so it throws me off) who may not have been hip to a group like SWV’s discography. They are force fed a lot of bull shit, so it’s vital that we don’t let them forget their music history.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t hit on Tiller’s other bouncy tracks like “Always Forever,” which I replay A LOT. The visuals are nice too, as Bryson collabs with Kehlani to midwife a thoughtful video to supplement a cut that is highlighted by the kind of trap drums that make it perfect for riding out to.
And I can’t forget about “Outta Time,” one of the joints I was eager to hear once I saw the track list.
Does anyone else chuckle at hearing Drake sing, “we’re toxic as ever,” with runs and all over a suave ass beat? I mean, I’m a fan of it for sure; but it humors me, the contrast, that is.
When I first played this song, I was hype alone at the title, seeing that Drake was featured.
But then this thing happens when Drake kicks off the song, serenading us with a entire verse up until the beat ceases, as if what we just turned on was merely a one minute and 30 something second interlude.
And for a moment, I found myself fearful that this collaboration wouldn’t consist of Tiller and Drizzy Drake on the same track.
But then Bryson makes his entrance and it’s all good again. When I initially heard the song, I had a flashback of when I was a shorty hearing Ye’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin,” for the first time on the radio.
The moment was pivotal because when it graced my sense of sound for the first time, the use of Jeezy’s ad-libs made my mouth water for a Jeezy verse. My middle school brain couldn’t fathom that there could very well exist a song where an artist strictly dishes out his signature improvisations devoid of any verse, let alone a contribution on the hook.
I truly felt bamboozled by the Jeezy ad-libs, finessed into thinking the Trapper of the Year was about to spit a verse on an insane Yeezy song. For years, I longed to hear an actual Jeezy verse on that beat, knowing his witty ass word play would mesh so well with the track’s Wait til’ I get my money right theme, which I always thought he would fucking obliterate.
But nonetheless, I can say that Tiller dropping an album in 2020 has been an added entry on my gratitude list. Tiller plays to his strengths and I’m not mad at it. His signature style is not overridden with repetition. Discernment seems to be at play here over time, and I’m glad everyone who worked on ANNIVERSARY was able to find that sweet spot in order to deliver a pretty solid album.