Genre-fluid and dense, Jaden Smith's Roc Nation debut is a lot to process. SYRE changes shape in such a way that it plays like two distinct albums; it's a sonic playground, and Smith bounces from toy to toy, flexing his artistic muscle throughout.
It begins with a cinematic suite of four songs, each title a letter that, together, spell the word "BLUE." Featuring haunting vocals from Smith's sister Willow, singer-songwriter Pia Mia and Norwegian multi-hyphenate Lido, the opening suite plunges the listener into a hearty cocktail of emotions ranging from melancholy to rage. "U," an interpretation of Lido's "Falling Down," is a clear standout with its vicious guitars and explosive drums.
Smith's acting talents serve him well on SYRE; he's a chameleon, changing colours throughout. On "Lost Boy," he's tortured and vulnerable, while "Icon" and "Batman" show us his cocky, more assertive side. "Fallen" is charming and suave, and "Falcon" is defiant and somewhat political. Thankfully, each performance is convincing enough that no song feels feigned or forced. He plays with many identities, but is genuine in his delivery from start to finish.
Despite its tight production and Smith's varied approach, some may find SYRE too tedious to revisit. At first listen, the album is scattered and slightly exhausting; it takes several attempts to make sense of everything you're hearing, and some listeners may run out of the patience required to dissect it all. Those with a longer attention span, though, will find SYRE a very promising debut that offers new delight with every play. (MSFTS Music/Roc Nation)