I’ve got to be honest. The last time I thought about either Zaytoven or Echosmith, I was a sophomore in high school. Even then, I don’t think I knew the names of either artist so much as I had heard the songs that made them famous repeatedly in car rides to school or at high school dances.
In May 2013, Echosmith uploaded their single “Cool Kids” to their Youtube channel. It would climb to 13th on the Billboard Top 100 the following year. In October, Migos’ “Versace,” produced by Zaytoven, cracked into the top 100 at 99th. Almost six years later, Zaytoven and Echosmith are slated to perform for Summer Sendoff 2019 tomorrow. In anticipation of that day, I have reviewed their latest releases.
GloToven by Zaytoven and Chief Keef
Zaytoven’s newest album, “GloToven,” is an impressive accomplishment. It manages to give Chief Keef, a rapper famous for popularizing the drill subgenre, the space to perform while still demonstrating Zaytoven’s remarkable ability to produce music that shapes lyrics rather than vice versa.
On “GloToven,” we hear elements of Chief Keef’s iconic mumble rap style, tempered by the complexity of Zaytoven’s somber beats. Even “F What the Opp Said,” arguably the most drill rap sounding song on the album, features a complex beat in the background that is more reminiscent of “Carol of the Bells” than the simple beat structure that gives priority to Chief Keef’s unique lyricism and delivery on other well-known tracks like “Love Sosa” and “Faneto.”
The depth of Zaytoven’s production does not overshadow Chief Keef. On the contrary, they complement each other well. In “Ain’t Gonna Happen,” Zaytoven’s piano melody weaves in and out of Chief Keef’s first verse. When the beat drops about halfway through the song, the interplay between the lyrics, melody and bass feels seamless.
The effect of this collaborative sound is that Chief Keef’s rapping takes on a softer, more emotional tone. Rather than catching the listener’s attention through percussive refrains and ad libs, he draws the listener in through soft, intimate vocals reflecting on past loves and hardship.
Each song tells a story that has a way of pulling the listener in. The album strikes the perfect balance between producer and rapper, and between depth and listenability. The heavy themes of love and loss come together with Chief Keef’s confident charisma and Zaytoven’s creativity in an album that truly pulls the listener in, while also putting out a few bops.
“Favorite Sound” by Echosmith and Audien
“Favorite Sound,” released in March 2019, is basically “Cool Kids” remixed and revamped. It features the same lyrical theme: being comfortable with who you are. “Shouldn’t apologize for just existing, shouldn’t apologize for just being me,” says lead vocalist Sydney Sierota in the pre-chorus.
What makes this song distinct is that Echosmith trades out the indie-pop drums, synth and guitar of “Cool Kids” for producer Audien’s up-tempo house sound. As a collaborative piece, the song at times feels like a stripped-down, major key pop song and then at other times like electronic dance music, two sounds never quite come together.
When Audien takes over and his fast-paced beat becomes the focus of the song, it just sounds like someone muted the vocals and turned up the bass. The vocals become oversaturated and faded as the rhythm builds and breaks. Conversely, when Sierota sings, the bass line reverts to its original rhythmic pattern and the emphasis shifts back to the vocals.
A fun listen, but by no means groundbreaking. “Favorite Sound” still meets all the characteristics of electronic and indie music and performs them well. What makes the collaboration enjoyable is the fact that no part is overdone. While the changes in rhythm that mark a transition from Echosmith’s sound to Audien’s are abrupt, the two sides of the song do not overshadow each other, which makes the work feel like a true collaboration.
As Sierota told Billboard, “The creative process itself felt surprisingly easy, and I love that we were able to give each other really honest input, considering we were all just getting to know each other.”
The exuberant positivity that arises from self-doubt in this song certainly counter-balances the deep, brooding lyricism of GloToven. Even so, Zaytoven’s impressive ability to share the stage, so to speak, with the artists he works with and Echosmith’s ability to adapt their sound to the electronic context make for a promising setlist this Friday night.