“Utopia” does for Travis Scott’s repertoire what “Rodeo” achieved following his initial mixtapes: it refreshes and revitalizes his music collection. While maintaining the core of his distinctive sound, Scott introduces nuances and subtleties that mark a significant departure from his previous works, yet without alienating his fanbase. The album is crucial for Scott, who needed to present a significant leap in his musical journey after the tragic incident at Astroworld.
A Star-Studded Lineup
The album, consisting of 19 tracks and running close to 75 minutes, boasts contributions from a slew of prominent artists, resembling a who’s who of Grammy nominees: names like Beyonce, Drake, the Weeknd, Bad Bunny, SZA, Kanye West, and Pharrell, to name just a few, grace the album credits. Nonetheless, the spotlight remains firmly on Scott’s evolved artistry and enhanced production skills, evident in the three songs where he is the sole credited producer.
Kanye’s Influence and Genre-Blurring
In “Utopia”, one can discern the influence of Kanye West, Scott’s mentor and former close family connection. Along with other contributors like Kid Cudi, the Weeknd, and Future, Scott belongs to the group of artists profoundly impacted by Kanye’s “808s & Heartbreak.” This genre-blurring album, which integrates elements of electronic music into hip-hop, laid the foundation for Scott and his peers’ sonic experimentation. The album is reminiscent of pivotal moments in Kanye’s career, subtly paying homage while also establishing Scott’s unique style and voice.
Contrasting “Utopia” with “Astroworld”
“Utopia” stands distinct from “Astroworld”, its predecessor. Whereas “Astroworld” offered a roller-coaster of diverse sonic experiences, “Utopia” presents a more cohesive yet explorative soundscape. For instance, Scott taps into boom-bap rhythms, joining forces with Westside Gunn and the Alchemist in “Lost Forever”. In another experimentation, he enlists Buddy Ross, a collaborator of Frank Ocean, to venture into softer, more melodious terrains in tracks like “My Eyes” and “Parasail”.
Synergies with Collaborators
The album truly shines when it highlights the synergies Scott has nurtured with various artists throughout his career. Be it Playboi Carti unveiling a refreshed Atlanta trap-inspired flow in “Fe!n” or the Weeknd lending his signature, smooth voice to “Circus Maximus”, each collaboration on “Utopia” feels like a thoughtful reinterpretation and update of Scott’s earlier works. The closing track, “Til Further Notice”, extends the ambient trip-hop vibe introduced in “Mile High”, a previous collaboration between Scott, James Blake, and Metro Boomin.
Eclectic Palette and Musical Evolution
In an interview with Variety in 2021, Scott expressed his admiration for diverse artists, from Bjork and Khruangbin to Beyonce and Chris Martin of Coldplay, indicating his broad musical tastes and influences. “Utopia” vividly reflects this eclectic palette, diverging from the spectacular aura of “Astroworld” to introduce elements of subtlety, nuance, and innovation, affirming Scott’s commitment to pushing his musical boundaries. With “Utopia”, listeners are invited into a refined, meticulously crafted sonic space, bearing witness to the artist’s ongoing evolution and maturity.