Thundercat’s album ‘Drunk’ is a genre meltingpot

Adrienne Oliva, Staff Writer

Thundercat’s new album, “Drunk,” pushes the limits of the concept of a genre. Thundercat’s newest effort combines so many genres that the word “genre” loses its meaning. This album has features of jazz, funk, R&B, rap, and electronic, but it is impossible to limit “Drunk” by categorizing it underneath any of these genres. “Drunk” seems to subconsciously ask the listener to question what the use of categorizing music is in the first place.

For example, many songs on this album do not follow the verse-chorus song structure top 40 listeners are most used to. An example of this would be in the song “Jameel’s Space Ride.” There are no verses, choruses, or bridges in this song. Rather, it works through the lyrics about a boy wanting to go to space on his bike in a linear fashion.

The defiance of song structure is also shown in some of Thundercat’s more jazz-influenced songs, as well, such as in the song “Uh Uh.” This song does not have lyrics, but rather has the instrumentals as its narrative. The bass, keyboards and drums sound like they are both competing and working together in this song. It sounds like a modern improv. session to me. Similar to “Jameel’s Space Ride,” there is no verse-chorus structure, which is the similar format of choice for many jazz musicians. The rejections of typical song structures seems to be a call back to true jazz form.

Though many songs do not have the verse-chorus structure, there are just as many that do, such as the song “Walk on By” featuring Kendrick Lamar. This means that there cannot even be an expectation of song structure from song to song on this album, defying the expectations the listener might make mid-album.

Another aspect of this album that defies expectations is the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the instrumentals. More often than not, this album features complex, layered instruments with oddly simplistic lyrics on top. This is exemplified on the song “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II).” This song features a complicated bass line that works with a funk rhythm from the drum to create an atmospheric instrumental track. Over this instrumental, Thundercat sings purely about wanting to be a cat. As Thundercat sings, “Everybody wants to be a cat.” This line just written out seems almost silly, but put together with the funk bass line and drums, it is an interesting pair.

All these features combined make it impossible to classify this album in one specific genre, which is exactly the point. What is the benefit to you, the listener, or Thundercat, the artist, in categorizing music? I anticipate that as long as Thundercat creates music, he will be creating art that questions why listeners feel the need to categorize it.