It’s been a long, strange road to the release of Travis Scott’s UTOPIA but the Houston rapper’s fourth studio album has finally made its debut – over three years since he first announced it and five years since his last LP, 2018’s ASTROWORLD.
It’s never been clear if Scott had a defined timeline for the album’s rollout. A year and a half after UTOPIA was announced, his November 2021 Astroworld Festival notoriously led to a crowd surge that claimed the lives of 10 victims and injured hundreds more. Naturally, Scott laid low after, doing little more than launching an initiative on event safety called “Project HEAL,”, as he faced $750 million USD in pending lawsuits and potential criminal charges, the latter of which he was cleared of by a grand jury just last month. The rapper returned the following year in September with a week-long residence at Las Vegas’ Zouk nightclub dubbed Road to Utopia.
Things went quiet again for a few months after the residency, and it was unclear if Scott had already finished his album or if he was in the throes of making it. A formal rollout didn’t kick off until May – The Weeknd and Scott’s bodyguard were enlisted to carry around UTOPIA-branded briefcases, Mike Dean stepped in to deliver his own update on the LP and Scott apparently streamed the finished album for the Houston Astros – but fans still saw no new music.
When “KPOP,” UTOPIA’s first single, arrived last week, many die-hard Scott fans were disappointed. The track enlisted The Weeknd, an obvious feature after the briefcase teaser, along with Bad Bunny. Those two names in tandem with its title, appeared to be an SEO mechanism designed to catapult Scott to the top of Google’s search engine, but the song lacked Scott’s enigmatic, psychedelic sound and veered towards the generic, having a barebones beat with no defined build or drop.
“Pretty generic for a Travis song, although there is nothing [specifically] wrong with the song,” one fan mused on Reddit. “It’s just not a UTOPIA level song.”
“Confused by this song,” another wrote. “I like it but it’s neither a chart-topper like “Sicko Mode,” nor an experimental, grandiose, 7+ min long deep cut like “3500.” Maybe it’s just for building up hype? It’s practically guaranteed a number one spot, but whether it has longevity is another issue.”
“KPOP” painted a bleak future for UTOPIA, but Scott returned two days prior to dropping the album with a more promising cut from the LP, a collaboration with Beyoncé called “DELRESTO (ECHOES).” An eerie ambient opening draws to mind the classic Scott sound and within a few seconds, the song introduces a punchy beat emblematic of Beyoncé’s own club music-inspired RENAISSANCE album.
Separately, the rapper had been gearing up to premiere UTOPIA for with a live performance at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on the same day as its digital release, a show that was reportedly canceled, news that was followed by Scott chiming in to say it was still happening, and then, a day later, officially cancelled due to “complex production issues,” according to Live Nation Middle East.
Cue to Scott dropping UTOPIA in full today, July 28: a 19-track, 74-minute behemoth of experimentation, rule-breaking and star-studded artists. “KPOP” aside, UTOPIA delivers on what one would expect from a Scott LP, and then more. It’s ominous and subversive, spiraling into the dark depths of Scott’s mind before rising to the surface for crystal clear moments of clarity, all packaged in sharp hooks punctuated with synths.
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On “Circus Maximus,” Scott teams up with The Weeknd again to rap over pop-style beats. The song also has some Kanye West influence via a fast, thumping build up reminiscent of the Yeezus song “Black Skinhead.”
Another fan-favorite is “Meltdown,” where Scott taps Drake for husky bars layered over murky electronics that seemingly emulate the experience of tapping one’s pressure points.
Scott doesn’t name featured artists in the song titles, allowing listeners to continuously be surprised. In addition to The Weeknd, Bad Bunny, Drake and Bey, there’s Bon Iver, who also appears on “DELRESTO (ECHOES),” along with Young Thug, Playboi Carti, Future, James Blake, Kid Cudi, 21 Savage, SZA, Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and more. This chameleonic feature incorporation is done without oversaturation: rather than merely plugging in a guest verse, each song weaves in the distinct sound and style of the guest artist.
Despite its artistic merit, there is an (expectedly) hot debate surrounding UTOPIA, with many expressing that it’s simply too soon after Astroworld for Scott’s big return, and that the rapper has not seemed to face any real consequences for what transpired that day.
Considering UTOPIA separate from that discussion, the album is worth listening to, at least once. UTOPIA sees Scott taking a step back from the anger and angst he’s made his name off of on Rodeo and ASTROWORLD. UTOPIA tones down the rage, finding Scott within an equally meritorious yet completely new sonic sphere. With each seemingly revelatory rap, one is left wondering if this could potentially symbolize a permanent maturation in his style amid the ongoing, endless evolution of La Flame.
Stream Travis Scott’s new album UTOPIA.