Emo trap crooner iann dior has had a meteoric rise over the past few years. From being relatively unknown to working with super producer collective Internet Money and recently having the biggest hit of the 2020’s so far with ‘Mood’ alongside 24KGolden, it’s all come incredibly fast for the 22-year-old. The Puerto-Rico born rapper has had to often wave off suspicions of being an ‘Industry Plant’ (which was also the name of his 2019 project) due to the rapidity of his success. Now no longer a newcomer in the industry, Dior is solidifying his sound on his Sophomore Effort ‘On To Better Things’.
iann dior’s music has always covered the typical emo-rap subjects like heartbreak and mental health and the beginning of this album is no different. However, these topics often fall flat when the words being said don’t sound believable and that’s mostly the case for album opener ‘Is It You’. The track starts slow and sombre yet enticing, but Dior proceeds to do very little with the spacious production, his flat vocals make him sound insincere and even a more energetic beat switch couldn’t save the latter half. Thankfully, the tracklisting gets a bit more exciting after that with ‘V12’ with a contribution from Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert. Featuring bubbling bouncy 808’s and a memorable vocal melody on the hook, you’ll be repeating “she thinks I'm reckless, diamonds in my smile and my necklace” all day long.
As the album progresses, one of the highlights comes from ‘Obvious’ featuring frequent collaborator and legendary drummer, Travis Barker. The hard-hitting drums and blaring guitar loop makes for a high octane and grandioso throwback to mid-2000’s pop-punk and Dior sounds the most interested and animated he’s been on the album so far truly demanding attention on the track. Unfortunately, the biggest issue this album faces is that a lot of these song ideas or structures have been done a lot better by his contemporaries, his voice doesn’t have the flexibility of the likes of Juice WRLD or Trippie Redd and a lot of the tracks can come off one dimensional. ‘Heartbr3aker’ and ‘Regret’ are two of the biggest culprits of this, they aren’t terrible tracks in the slightest but they’re incredibly generic and lack any personality whatsoever.
Luckily, Travis Barker appears once again to bring the best out of Dior on ‘Thought It Was’ alongside MGK. Dior’s smooth vocals fit well on the production here and he finds some satisfying pockets while having a pretty solid lyrical theme, displaying his difficulty of finding love within the walls of somewhere as superficial as LA. MGK does a solid enough job on the backend of the track with some unexpectedly impressive and evocative high notes laced into his verse. As the album reaches its climax it’s clear Dior sounds a lot more comfortable and exciting when he ditches the generic trap beats for more emo and punk-inspired guitar-based production. ‘Sinking Interlude’ and ‘Fallin’ both give us that raw emo energy Dior is so well known for. He’s at the peak of his powers and it’s a shame he couldn’t produce this sort of form throughout the entirety of the project.
Overall ‘On To Better Things’ isn’t the era-defining emo trap record it could’ve been, it lacked a lot of things that make that sub-genre so great. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a failure, Dior didn’t commit any crimes against music, none of the tracks are truly horrible but at least half of them are forgettable. There are moments where Dior shows his undoubted potential and those moments save this album from being completely mediocre, unfortunately, those moments don’t come anywhere near often enough.
Words: Chris Saunders
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