Once having listened to Scott Mescudi's (a.k.a. Kid Cudi) debut album Man on the Moon: The End of Day, it's easy to believe that he had a part in Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak last year; it's got the same amalgam of electronic influences as well as dealing with the same somewhat morose subject matter. Kid Cudi is able to avoid immediate comparison to West's last album thanks to a broader assortment of influences and sounds, which could be in part thanks to the larger number of collaborators.
While Kid Cudi's debut is definitely impressive, it hits a number of snags. One big thing is Common's completely unnecessary narration, which appears at random. It's as though Mescudi feared that the unity among the tracks as far as the production and lyrics were concerned wasn't enough to make the album feel conceptual, so lines for a narrator were tacked on between certain songs. It doesn't flow, and doesn't feel genuine; it only serves to disrupt Man on the Moon's momentum. Speaking of flow, another issue is that Kid Cudi barely has one. This isn't exactly crippling, as the vocal patterns are very well constructed, but his voice is caught awkwardly betwixt singing, rapping, and talking voices, not really registering as any of these. Lyrically, while Mescudi certainly can't be accused of being empty or bereft of feeling, as there's a lot of that here, more often than not he sacrifices any sense of poetry for directness to the point of coming across as self pitying. Up Up & Away is an unfortunate example of this, with the embittered cheerleader-esque refrain "They gon' judge me anyway, so WHATEVER."
Issues are indeed abound in Man on the Moon, but as mentioned before, the album is far from a flop. One of the record's best qualities is the production; not only is it fairly diverse, but the elaborate construction in many cases is remarkably accomplished. The best moments come when Kid Cudi runs with the spacey feel that underlies the album; on Alive and Pursuit of Happiness in particular, both helmed by indie electronic outfit Ratatat (with help from MGMT on the latter track), the beats are trippy while with an alluring, head bobbing rhythm. Pursuit's music is also a perfect match for the deformed hope in the lyrics, psychedelic with a hint of sadness.
Soundtrack 2 My Life is a perfect example of how capable the melodies are. The vocal harmony is so compelling that the cheesy Charles in Charge reference, Jay-Z quoting, and dramatic lines like, "it's close to go and trying some coke, and a happy ending would be slitting my throat" are barely distracting. The following Simple As... has a beautifully layered intro and startlingly clever wordplay ("as simple as that for your simple ass"), and the piano leading along the heavy synths and Mescudi's bitter lyrics is absolutely beautiful. Great as these moments are, the highlight has to be Kid Cudi and Kanye West's send up of Lady Gaga's Poker Face on Make Her Say, which carries an amusing energy on par with The Roots' single Birthday Girl.
Man on the Moon fumbles a bit at the end with the generic slow jam sound of Hyyerr as well as Common popping up once more to conclude his narration, but the album doesn't quite end on a sour note. Kid Cudi is able to largely live up to the hype that has surrounded him for the past year, and his interesting perspectives on the genre will no doubt yield even better works in the future.