By Christopher Brocker
Assistant Music Director
The Louisville native, Bryson Tiller, returns after a lengthy absence. Tiller became one of the most promising R&B acts back in 2015 with his debut album Trapsoul. Five years later, Trapsoul is considered a classic by many. Tiller helped popularize the subgenre partially by giving it a name but also pushing the sound.
However, Tiller’s second album True to Self is considered a sophomore slump by some critics. True to Self was yet another bloated album within the streaming era. Five years after his debut, Tiller is trying to recapture the momentum the album had.
Playing heavily on nostalgia, Tiller released a deluxe version of Trapsoul with songs from that era. Tiller followed by releasing a music video for “Right My Wrongs” which is the final song from that album. Anniversary was also released on the fifth anniversary of Trapsoul, and the cover artwork for Anniversary is a not so subtle nod to its predecessor.
Years Go By
The track begins with spoken word and atmospheric production. The production features a hard-hitting and upbeat drum pattern. Tiller raps over the beat with his signature melodic delivery.
The lyrics are not very quotable however, Tiller brings strong energy. Notably, Tiller shouts out fellow Louisville artist Jack Harlow. The song seamlessly transitions into “Always and Forever”.
Always and Forever
This is one of the two singles released for Anniversary. Tiller croons over the beat with auto-tuned vocals. Tillers vocals aren’t as prominent on this track however, they still cut through. Tiller sings about a partner who isn’t reciprocating the same feelings he has. Ultimately after being lied to he has to say goodbye to her. This is one of the strongest tracks on the album.
I’m Ready for You
The beat features slow-rolling drums with atmospheric production. From a production standpoint, this is Tiller’s sound in a microcosm. Tiller begins singing with notably fewer filters on his vocals. His delivery is passionate and sincere in the opening. Unfortunately, his voice takes on heavy autotune and gets drowned out. The manipulation on his vocals makes the chorus less impactful. The lyrics are less audible as well and the vocals are lost in the mix.
Slow rolling drums and a buzzing sample dominate this track. Tiller here switches in and out of singing and melodic rapping. The chorus and the verse are indistinguishable which makes the song lack direction. The beat switches in the last portion of the song and Tiller delivers one final verse. This song could grow on me however, it doesn’t do much for me.
A beautiful piano begins the track with sampled vocals floating in the background. The beat begins to swell before Tiller begins his verse. Tiller references his song “502 Come Up” with the lines “22 go get it now, 27 hold it down.”
“502 Come Up” being one of my favorites makes this reference appreciated. Tiller creates a more intimate environment here and speaks retrospectively. At a runtime of nearly 3 minutes, this would have been more fitting for an intro rather than an interlude. “Timeless Interlude” is a mostly melodic spoken word.
This was the first new song that got my attention on first listen. Tiller has a much more commanding presence on this track. Tiller’s gives a passionate performance here that is needed and his vocals cut more effectively through the mix.
Tiller is completely in his singing bag on this track and the sample flip is also executed well. “Sorrows” is one of my personal favorites on the album.
This was the leadoff single for Anniversary. The song was released and accompanied by a music video that announced the album. The song opens and closes with sampled spoken word from Brent Faiyaz. Ironically, Faiyaz and Tiller have been compared a lot recently.
SWV’s “All Night Long” from the movie soundtrack “Waiting to Exhale” is sampled heavily here. We only get one verse from Tiller in the middle of the track and the sample is then slowed with added reverb to conclude the track. The song itself would work better as an interlude rather than a single.
This is a long-awaited collaboration between Tiller and Drake. Tiller has notably sampled Drake a few times earlier in his career. Tiller having nearly signed to Drake’s label OVO, makes this a full-circle moment. Drake is also the lone feature on Anniversary.
The song has a looped sample of Snoh Aalegra’s “Fool for You” accompanied by a continuous drum pattern. Drake sings his entire verse and performs adequately. His vocals are noticeably the most audible of any on the entire record.
Tiller’s vocals are layered here with autotune. The lyrics are mostly forgettable in both verses, and the song itself isn’t experimental, which can be said about the entire record. Tiller and Drake’s contributions are very isolated here. The song structure is lacking and more overlapping of contribution would have benefited this track.
Next to You
The beat samples “Heart Attack” by Flight Facilities. The sample feels very nostalgic and is a perfect marriage with Tiller’s vocals. The slow-rolling drums and reverb are once again present here. Tiller croons over the beat with filtered vibrato. Tiller sings about waiting for his lover and how impatient he feels.
If True to Self was bloated then Anniversary feels more like an EP. On one hand, the conciseness of the project prevents it from having a lasting impression. However, brevity may be due to a lack of substance.
The rollout of this project asks for it to be compared to Trapsoul. Unfortunately, there is no competition there. “Timeless Interlude” and “Next to You” are reminiscent of Tiller’s older work. “Always Forever” is probably the strongest of the bunch and definitely on repeat for me. “Sorrows” is also another great inclusion on Anniversary.
However, most of the project is forgettable for me. “Outta Time” feels like a failed attempt at a hit Drake collab. A lot of the tracks feel monotonous and Tiller’s vocals drown in the mix.
Tiller has teased a deluxe for Anniversary and possibly the release of his long-awaited album Serenity. Both of which are scheduled to release at some time later this year. Hopefully, more experimentation and fresh ideas will lead to a better product from Tiller. As a fan of Tiller and his past work, I’m looking forward to it.
Featured Image via Anniversary album artwork