DJ Khaled’s ‘Grateful’ tries too hard with guest spots, is nothing memorable
Picture this: It’s Thanksgiving. You’ve just finished gorging yourself for the past 90 minutes or so. Your family isn’t comprised of the best cooks in the world, but you ate all of your Aunt Mildred’s awful cooking, just to be polite.
And now, you feel uncomfortable, exhausted and bloated.
That’s sort of what it feels like to listen to the grossly jam-packed “Grateful,” the latest attempt by DJ Khaled to release half a dozen singles that will compete with each other to be this year’s song of the summer.
“Grateful” is, at the time of writing, currently the number one album in America, and has been for about two weeks. But it cannot be emphasized enough that this does nothing to suggest that “Grateful” is actually any good.
But perhaps I’m being overly emotional about this. Let’s step back a moment and look at this more clinically.
For those who aren’t in the know, Khaled Mohamed Khaled, known professionally under the simple moniker “DJ Khaled,” is an executive producer of sorts. For a bit more than a decade, he’s been paying producers, rappers, singers and other artists to crank out songs that are designed to be pop-rap phenomena, and he’s been releasing records more or less regularly each year.
More recently, Khaled became a walking internet meme, thanks to his presence on Snapchat and the easily quotable ad-libs in his songs, frequently shouting “We the Best Music” or “another one” at some point in his songs.
And even more recently than that, Khaled became a father to young Asahd Khaled.
And Khaled is obsessed with his son. Little Asahd has graced the cover to every single from the record, along with the record itself. Khaled even gave Asahd top-billing as an executive producer on the album, despite being less than a year old. Khaled explained that Asahd has this credit because he helped Khaled pick out which songs were the best.
Ignoring how totally inane this is, Asahd liking too many songs might have been what led to “Grateful” going off the rails. Because at 23 songs, just shy of 90 minutes, this thing is a beast. But rarely does the record do anything to justify its own length.
When the album first dropped, I tweeted that “Grateful” should actually be called “Summer Songs Featuring Your Favorite Artists Under-performing,” which turns out to be the record’s Achilles heel.
To say that the featured artist list on “Grateful” is star-studded is to undersell it. “Grateful” features performances from what seems like every major name in hip-hop and pop music right now, ranging from the power couple of Jay-Z and Beyoncé to big names in the Atlanta scene like Future, Migos, Young Thug and 21 Savage to old-school New Yorkers like Raekwon and Nas to the incessant positivity of Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott on basically every other song.
The biggest problem, though, is that you’ve heard better stuff from virtually every single one of these artists in the past year or so (with the notable exception of Nas, who, for two straight Khaled albums now, has been promising that his album was done). No one is performing as well as we know they can. So much of the run-time of this album feels like artists lazily phoning it in.
Let’s look at “I Love You So Much,” the Chance the Rapper solo track that is probably the most emblematic of “Grateful’s” problems.
Chance’s choruses are merely him naming various members of his family and saying that he loves them.
The verses are Khaled gushing over Asahd, who, I’ll point out again, he is obsessed with.
Seriously, Khaled delivers the following to little Asahd: “You the greatest that ever did it. You’re born blessed. You’re my son, I love you, you’re my son. You’re my son, you’re a mogul. You’re an icon, you’re a legend. You’re the greatest, I love you, I love you so much. Thank you so much for coming in my life.”
And to make matters worse, the bridge of the song is literally just Chance singing the alphabet. It’s all so lazily done and sickeningly sweet that “I Love You So Much” is a strong contender for my least favorite song of the year.
But that isn’t to say that “Grateful” isn’t without its good moments. Those good moments all come very early on in the record, and they basically just consist of the four songs that were released as singles.
“Shining” makes for a fun bit of interplay between Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
“Wild Thoughts,” with Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, is perhaps the first real indication that the record might just be boring, as the song is catchy but ultimately forgettable.
“I’m the One,” featuring Quavo from Migos, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber is easily the catchiest of all the songs on the album, and a fairly good contender for the actual song of the summer.
“To the Max” is just Drake being Drake, which is to say he sing-raps and the song prints money for Khaled.
And then after that, the record just drops off. Besides “I Love You So Much,” there’s nothing exceptionally bad about “Grateful.” But there’s nothing really good about it either.
Which, if you think about it, is basically every song of the summer. They’re catchy, fun pop bangers that you quickly forget the next year.
And if Khaled is going to try to write an entire album of songs that are striving to be that, the record will be nothing more than forgettable.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6119 or on Twitter @PatKernan
Artist: DJ Khaled
Label: We the Best, Epic
Best track: ‘I’m the One’
Worst track: ‘I Love You So Much’