‘Jackman.’ falls short in everything but its lyricism

Despite its emotional lyricism, the album’s generic production categorizes it as bland


Generation Now / Atlantic

The ‘Jackman.’ album cover features hip-hop and rap artist Jack Harlow standing alongside a row of dumpsters, his arms crossed over his chest.

Aashi Venkat

“It must be my skin, I can’t think of any other reason I win / I can’t think of an explanation, it can’t be the years of work I put in” — “It Can’t Be” (Track 8 of “Jackman.”)

Hip-hop and rap singer Jack Harlow rose to fame through his hit track “What’s Poppin” and continued to make waves by featuring major artists Tory Lanez, Lil Wayne and DaBaby on the track’s remixes. After being featured in Lil Nas X’s hit single “INDUSTRY BABY,” Harlow’s fame grew. With his 2022 release “Come Home The Kids Miss you,” Harlow harnessed the attention garnered from his collaborations, elevating his status to superstardom. 

Now, with “Jackman.,” Harlow delves into society’s criticism of his rise to fame. Released on Friday, April 28, the album stays true to Harlow’s genre by mixing his vocals with an overlay of diverse background vocals and rugged synths. The album also delves into darker themes with its commentary on jail time and the aspiration to become famous, while also discussing drugs and sex. 

While standing strong in its lyricism and commentary, the album immediately disappoints regarding its vocals and production. Tracks in the beginning of the album meld together, sounding similar on the first few listens, and Harlow’s repeated usage of synths, claps and various background vocal noises make the tracks sound very similar. 

However, the lyricism in these tracks is notably well-done, with “Ambitious” narrating Harlow’s story as he grew to popularity and “Common Ground” referring to racial, social and economic disparities in the rap community. Later in the album, “It Can’t Be” expands on the ideas, with Harlow attributing a large portion of his fame to the color of his skin. Yet the vocals and lyricism in these tracks are muffled and inaudible in portions due to the overemphasized background noise. This makes their artistry hard to truly grasp on the first few listens. Although loyal fans may listen multiple times, the average listener is less prone to do so. By distracting from the tracks’ strengths and overusing the same bland musical production present in his past work, Harlow contributes to the overall staleness of the album.

Additionally, even the lyricism in the album falls short in certain places, with the chorus of “Gang Gang Gang” serving as a prime example. The chorus “Ride for my dawgs, lie for my dawgs, die for my dawgs” is both conflicting and cringy. Hence, despite the emotion-rich verses that reflect Harlow’s denial, anger and horror upon realizing his friends have changed for the worse, the chorus ultimately takes away from the verses’ lyricism and notably decreases the track’s overall quality.

The album improves mid-way and towards the end, with “Denver” and “It Can’t Be” redeeming it. While “Denver” is about the evolution of Harlow’s dreams as he faces reality, “It Can’t Be” portrays an emotional spiral Harlow experiences when questioning why he deserves his success. Both tracks continue to be influenced by Harlow’s signature instrumentals and background vocals — yet strangely, these factors complement the vocals and lyrics, strengthening the track. Most importantly, the album’s crown jewel is “Blame On Me.” Delving into Harlow’s childhood experience and traumas, the track is beautifully vulnerable. The track does not implement the previously mentioned factors in its production, instead highlighting the vocals by implementing softer background vocal tidbits and lighter, less intrusive synths. Yet, this track does not compensate for how the rest of the album was a mess. However, as the ninth track on the album, it allows listeners to reflect more, incentivizing them to listen again and thus redeeming “Jackman.” in this sense.

Although the album had potential and, for the most part, shines with its lyricism, Harlow ultimately disappoints listeners with this release. Tracks like “Blame On Me” demonstrate how “Jackman.” could have been significantly stronger if produced in a way that focused less on background noise and more on Harlow’s vocals and overall message. Unfortunately, the album’s initial indistinguishability is not redeemed by its strength later on, proving how because Harlow ruined an album with strong lyricism by drowning it out, most listeners would find “Jackman.” void of depth on the first few listens.