Few captured the zeitgest of 2013 better than PARTYNEXTDOOR, who ascended impossibly fast from the hazy lights of Drake’s Houstatlantavegas. A co-sign and an October’s Very Own blog post on April 2013 from the most visible figure in hip-hop instantly transformed PND’s “Make A Mil” into a buzzing single, but unlike his OVO boss, PARTYNEXTDOOR had no interest in divulging details about himself to swelling audiences. The hype became intensely enigmatic — an artist selling an aesthetic of guarded coldness, one who only showed face through a heavily blurred album cover, was crooning lines like, “Talk here ain’t cheap, but it’s on the budget baby/I lick ya, I dick ya, and that’s word to the public” on “Wild Bitches.” Last year’s PARTYNEXTDOOR offered a blunter but equally accessible version of The Weeknd, and on PARTYNEXTDOOR 2, the formula remains the same.
PND’s lyrics are plagued by platitude, but knocking PND 2 for its songwriting is quite obviously on par with critiquing porn for its script. Sonically, the album provides a consistent blend of hypnotic buoyancy, and the best tracks on PND 2 are the ones that don’t try too hard and can comfortably ensconce in the background of a late night. Those that lazily offer narrative or become overwrought with Auto-Tune, meanwhile, are forgettable at best.
PARTYNEXTDOOR 2 begins with most of the former. “East Liberty” swerves between numbed verses and relatable belts about ambivalence toward a summer fling as the season ends, accompanied by a pulsing sample of Manchester producer Holy Other. The woozy backdrop and light hook of “Muse” is the LP’s smoothest song, and despite its trite title and straightforward Disclosure flip, “Sex On The Beach” is four minutes of polished impertinence that will likely inspire its listener to hop a flight to Miami.
None of these songs offer any lyrical depth; while his OVO mentor romanticizes the minutiae and isn’t shy to air out his intentions and insecurities, PARTYNEXTDOOR revels in never breaking from his blunted exterior. On PND 2, he emphasizes that to the point of caricature. “Need to get it while it’s hot ‘cause I’m cold at times,” he sings on “Thirsty”; “Yeah, you still fire, I ain’t need a Bic/I got money, I don’t need a bitch,” he adds on “SLS” for good measure. But empty brags fade easily enough behind a good beat, while loose, unimaginative themes that persist throughout a song do not. “Her Way,” despite wailing saxophone and skittering 808s, is hard to listen to due to the vapidity of its storyline, which details a nondescript girl that works her way into PND’s crew. The only thing the listener knows about the seemingly ordinary girl in question is her proclivity to “get down just like Lindsay Lohan,” and the way she fails to stand out is explained as “she the light-skin girl in a light-skin crew.” “Belong To The City” and “Grown Woman” are other unoriginal songs about a girl met with indecision in the club.
PARTYNEXTDOOR also managed to adopt a Young Thug impression that he deploys sparingly on the back half of the project. Midway through “Recognize,” the album’s lead single with Drake, PND begins the escalated squawks Thug made famous, and continues them in next track “Options.” PARTYNEXTDOOR’s voice is good enough to hold its own without being doused in Auto-Tune, and the worst moments of PARTYNEXTDOOR 2 occur when he tries to overload a hook.
The highs of PND 2 have replay value, and the lows — though there are certainly more of them — blend with the rest of the album as it plays in the background of a bedroom. PARTYNEXTDOOR has no interest in humility, and though it fails to express it in a particularly creative or original way, PARTYNEXTDOOR 2 accomplishes its very transparent goals: to celebrate a lifestyle, soundtrack sex, and make the party next door look like the exclusive event of the year.—Steven Goldstein