By Gage Sutton
After the release of their debut studio album Nu Religion: Hyena in 2017, THEY. returned in October of 2020 ready to make a statement. The tandem of Drew Love and Dante Jones followed up their impressive freshman album with a sonically pleasing and emotionally charged second album, The Amanda Tape. Mentored by legendary producer Timbaland, THEY. is starting to get the attention their music deserves.
These LA natives are not afraid to wear their late 90’s R&B inspirations on their sleeves but have continued to find ways to keep up with their current R&B contemporaries with a unique sound. Between Love’s incredible vocals and the hard-hitting production of Jones, THEY. is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.
The Amanda Tape may not be considered a concept album in the same sense as an album like To Pimp a Butterfly, but if you listen closely, this is an album that is guided by a story of some sort. When Love and Jones began working on the album, the duo realized they both had previous relationships with women named Amanda. This is what inspired the title and concept behind the album.
While The Amanda Tape only consists of ten tracks (not very many in the age of 18 track albums), THEY. vividly takes the listener through the many emotions one will feel while in a romantic relationship.
The opening track starts the journey with the first meeting between the two romantic partners. The lyrics paint the picture of this interaction being a carefree, spur-of-the-moment situation. Similar to the beginning of a relationship, the start of the album has an optimistic and upbeat tone that sets the stage for the emotions the rest of the project will explore.
Count Me In
Something you will find out about THEY.’s music is just how catchy all of their hooks are. The track “Count Me In” is example number one. A smooth guitar at the beginning of the song paired with Love’s lush vocals is a match made in heaven. Also, the incorporation of the drum break before the second verse fits perfectly with the lyrics about wanting to spend more time with a person.
Tinashe is featured on the track “Play Fight” and perfectly matches with the sultry vibe THEY. wanted on the chorus and on her guest verse as well. The evocative lyrics of the song portray the feeling of passion and enjoyment from the relationship. This is definitely one of the best overall songs on the project.
Despite “All Mine” possibly being the most toxic track on the album, it’s impossible to deny how infectious this chorus is. The song describes the feeling of possessiveness that comes with a monogamous relationship but as we later come to find in the album, it can end up plaguing the whole thing.
Hitting the halfway mark of the album, we hear the last track before a dramatic change of tone in the album, “STCU.” The track is accompanied by rapper Juicy J who is a very entertaining feature on any song and fits the overall raunchy nature of the song.
“Mood Swings” is where the listener can begin to hear the problems forming in the narrative described by THEY. Frustrated by his partner’s erratic behavioral trends, Love sings about how if she keeps it up she will ultimately lose him. This is one of the if not catchiest hooks on the entire album and the production will have you moving to the rhythm.
On and On
This track is an attempt at fixing the relationship that seems to be crumbling at this point in the album. One of the most emotionally charged cuts on this album, “On and On” is the breaking point for Love and the love he has for his partner.
“Losing Focus” is my personal favorite song on the album thanks to the unforgettable hook and an amazing guest verse from Wale. Not to mention how much I can relate to this track. Love sings about being so concerned with the fights and what is happening in the relationship that he loses sight of his goals and responsibilities. I can not say enough about this song and how good it is even outside of the context of the album.
The second to last track of the project is the phase of denial and doubt that often accompanies the signs of relationships end. “FWM” is a great transition into the last track of the project.
The Amanda Tape ends on the somber note of the track “Conclude” which hears Love confronting his partner and saying that the best course of action is to end the relationship. While the song is not the most extravagant ending to an album with a glitzy instrumental or insane hook, it does capture the emotion that comes with having to make this decision.
The tandem of Drew Love and Dante Jones are the perfect example of how to merge modern R&B with the soulful sound of old school. If you don’t believe me give their second studio album The Amanda Tape a spin. I think this album truly has something for everyone and shows why THEY. is just getting started in their rise to stardom.
Featured Image by THEY.