Rock The Bells Music Festival -San Bernardino, CA - Day 1

Kid Cudi Presents Satellite Flight is Kid Cudi’s fifth album since 2009 (Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mister Rager, WZRD, and Indicud. It does not include his contribution to the Need for Speed soundtrack). You may remember Kid Cudi as the guy who threw his soul onto the train tracks with songs like “Soundtrack 2 My Life” and “The Prayer,” sang/moaned his way through heartbreaking melodies on “Cudi Zone” and “All Along,” and wrote what may have been the best song of 2009 (#highschoolthrowback), “Man on the Moon.” Unfortunately, dear readers, that Cudi is dead. Long dead. The following is a blow-by-blow of my impressions of the songs on the album, with some comments from my step-grandmother, who admits that she is a Kid Cudi neophyte. (My grandfather tried to write a review as well, but told me that Kid Cudi is so far behind Sinatra and Louis Armstrong that he didn’t even know where to begin.)

Destination: Mother Moon

Me: This sounds like a cross between a Madonna intro, “Eye of the Tiger,” and the Transformers theme music. It makes me want to walk slowly and determinedly toward an unoccupied and temporarily moored ship, commandeer it, and sail it into the Bermuda Triangle.

My Grandmother: Individually and as a group, I especially enjoyed the four instrumentals which range from the eerie and otherworldly and, through the repetitive beat, to the tribal, the sexual and the primitive most effectively.

Going to the Ceremony

Me: Begins with a riff that hearkens back to WZRD’s “High Off Life,” “Live & Learn,” “Efflictim,” and pretty much every bad song i.e. every song on WZRD. It sounds like a teenager who just bought his first electric guitar and hasn’t realized you can strum up as well as down. We get some classic Cudi despair/drama, but the lyrics are simpler than high-end tracks like “The Prayer” and “Highs ‘n Lows.” Lines such as “Hate what I see, hate what I see / I’m over it, I need me some change / Something to feel good” are heavy on the telling end of the showing-telling spectrum. In fact the only metaphors or similes I can find in the entire song are the phrases “free as a bird” and “you are a zombie.” I’m pretty sure he didn’t come up with the first one, and I don’t think the second one really counts. The outro music is actually engaging—it sounds like the kind of music you wish were playing in the astronomy section of the Natural History museum when they show the video about how the solar system was created.

Satellite Flight

Me: The intro sounds like Man on the Moon II’s “Please Don’t Play This Song” combined with a Mozart song I can’t remember (I suppose the fact that I can pull out Kid Cudi references but don’t know a single piece of classical music is a reflection on my musical education). The vocals are catchy, but the lyrics still don’t do it for me. Cudi rhymes “you,” “clue,” and “you.” He throws “try” and “deny” together, and then tries to squeeze another rhyme out of “souls,” roads,” and “follow” that doesn’t quite hit. The second verse is even worse: in 41 words, the only rhymes are “choose,” “lose,” and “view.” literally has 178 words that rhyme with choose (177 if you don’t include “provide-with-shoes”), including kangaroos, misconstrues, and drive-thrus, and Kid Cudi could only think of one and a half. The third verse is the phrase, “heavy little thoughts get jumbled in a bundle / and they’re tucked deep down in the back of my brain” three times. I didn’t like it the first time and the second two didn’t help.

Copernicus Landing

Me: The beginning sounds like two robots flirting with each other in the best kind of way. They start out with a couple of unsure beeps, but within a minute, the synth kicks in and they’re going at it. This song sort of makes me feel like I’m being hypnotized. Three minutes in and I feel like I am high out of my mind, listening to angels drop pebbles into the sea. So far this is the best song on the album, and not just because Cudi doesn’t speak (but maybe a little bit).

Balmain Jeans

Me: “Balmain Jeans” comes out swinging with lines like “You can lick it after I’m done lickin’ you first,” “Yuhm, yuhm,” and “Can I come inside your vortex / Can I come inside your vortex.” The rhymes aren’t much better than the earlier songs, but Cudi’s synthed-out vocals actually make up for it this time. The chorus and hook are catchy, even if the only memorable words are “It’s been so long, been such a hobby / Finding someone who electrifies my body.” This is the kind of song for which you wouldn’t mind being the last person on the Terrace dance floor: lights low, DJ half-passed out, and Cudi crooning. This is now my favorite song on the album.

My Grandmother: My experience with rap and hip-hop is very limited, but my impression is that they are often violently misogynistic. I think this misogyny reflects a fear of female sexual power. Happily this is missing in “Balmain Jeans.” Though some of the lyrics are a bit too explicit for me, Cudi clearly is rapturous and unafraid of the power of love/sex and his expression is a kind of romanticism! Most romantic of all is that he feels safe. Revealing that vulnerability is revealing the man he is. Bravo to him!

Too Bad I Have to Destroy You Now

Me: Though the voice sounds like old school Cudi, the lyrics sound like the kind of Cudi who is talking to himself while having a bad acid experience. Lines like “I ain’t taking care of nobody but my daughter and my mom / Places to go cause I need to build a travel log” (not totally sure if those lines were supposed to rhyme, but they don’t) make me wonder if Cudi is going to start rapping about walking to the supermarket and brushing his teeth. Half of the song is just the line “Thought you were my (insert: brother/sister/homie).” Again, the instrumental is nice, but it would be even better if Cudi were silent.

My Grandmother: This isn’t just troubling, it is objectionable and ugly and hard to believe that it is penned by the same person who wrote “Troubled Boy” and “Balmain Jeans.”

Internal Bleeding

Me: Finally, an intro without beeps. Unfortunately, it is coupled with equally poorly-crafted lyrics that are depressing without being interesting, like “Burn my crown / Spit on my grave / I’ll make you.” Who is spitting? Why can’t he/she spit somewhere else? Why does Cudi want his/her spit on his corpse? Other lines like “I’m on you / Salt of the earth / Bird of the heavens” make up for their lack of depressiveness with a hefty amount of meaninglessness.

My Grandmother: He mimics the sound of a wounded animal appropriate to the lyrics.

In My Dreams 2015

Me: Back to the beeps and autotune. This song makes me feel like I’ve just been strapped down and forced to watch a brainwashing video. Mercifully short.

Return of the Moon Man (Original Score)

Me: Another instrumental, but with a Beethoven-esque feel, but only if Beethoven only knew how to play the same four notes on the violin over and over again. Sort of feels like a track that should be played as credits roll after Paranormal Activity. It gets more interesting around the third minute, but quickly reverts to Beethoven with a sledgehammer at the fourth.

Troubled Boy

Me: Cudi repeats the same lines “No one wants a troubled boy / Leave alone the troubled boy” over and over again, but the way in which he awkwardly draws out syllables, coupled with the unsettling guitar-plucked background music, make the lyrics engaging and creepy instead of monotonous. This is the song that makes me wish Kid Cudi had delved further into his psyche with this album. The un-synthed guitar, simplicity of the beat, and cyclic weirdness of the lyrics let Cudi’s unnerved innards leak through. Even if, on paper, the words aren’t particularly impressive, the way Cudi moans them makes them believable in a terrible and gloomy way. This is the only song with words on the album that really makes me want to return to Cudi’s brain.

My Grandmother: “Troubled Boy” certainly captures his isolation and the repetitive lyrics reaffirm that…repetitively.

Ultimately, Kid Cudi presents: SATTELITE FLIGHT, as well as his last few albums, feels like how I played basketball in elementary school. A few minutes into each game, I would make a basket. Immediately, I’d be so surprised at my own hand-eye coordination that I wouldn’t score again. Man on the Moon: The End of Day was mind-blowing. It was (I think) the best rap album of 2009, even against Tech N9ne’s K.O.D., Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3, and K’naan’s Troubador. Cudi has, however, never been able to live up to his own success. All of his albums since then have had a couple of good songs, but have seemed unfinished and unsatisfying.

It is telling that, in Kid Cudi presents: SATTELITE FLIGHT, one of the best songs is “Copernicus Landing,” in which the only word is “Uh,” said approximately 200 times. While, throughout the album, Cudi’s beats and instrumentals are entrancing and impressive, his lyrics are simple, uninspiring, and much less nuanced than those of his early songs. As my grandfather said, “His music does not encourage me to return.” Reading my grandmother’s reviews, I realized that, had I not been introduced to the Cudi in his prime, I would have even fewer good things to say about this album. I can only imagine what a negative impression I would have of his music if this were all I knew of it. I’ve been a Cudi fan for years and I’ve bought every album except this one, but I think this might be the end. What happened to the Cudi I listened to in the back of 10th grade chemistry? It seems like he hit his middle school basketball peak with Man on the Moon: End of Day. Everything since that has been a half-cocked shot from a rapper who vaguely remembers the days when he was nothing but net.