While there are redeeming moments on Trick, none of them are spectacular enough to make up for the mediocrity of the rest.
Jamie T.’s (nee Jamie Treays ) fourth studio album is rightly entitled Trick. On the album, he uses every trick in his discography to produce an album that feels like a full representation of himself. Unfortunately, the mingling of these different genres and devices leads to a record that feels disconnected. Some tracks are exceptional pieces that show his full range of capabilities, while others pale in comparison.
Trick can be divided into three main song categories: catchy, whimsical tracks that follow the same structure as his 2014 hit “Zombie;” songs that attempt to highlight some kind of major world issue; and rap-focused tunes. The rap-heavy tracks like “Drone Strike” and “Police Tapes” simply don’t possess the same flow and ease seen on his previous rap-based songs. The lines feel stilted and false, as if written by someone else and handed to him 30 seconds before recording. “Drone Strike” in particular is monotonous and dull. The idea of us all being drone-like sheep isn’t a fresh concept and the consistent repetition throughout only highlights this fact.
Tracks like “Sign of the Times” and “Self Esteem,” while clearly meant to elicit some kind of visceral response from listeners, instead only succeed in registering the faintest impression of understanding. We can all relate to his wanting to be more exceptional and unconventional, but the humdrum musical accompaniment and lackluster examples don’t evoke a powerful response. Similarly, “Self Esteem” is a dismal and impersonal account of being friend-zoned by a girl.
His use of women on Trick leaves much to be desired as well, repeatedly painting them as powerless victims who have no worth in relation to men aside from their sexuality. On “Power Over Men” he sings, “She was never academic/she couldn’t draw a thing/but she had power over men.” Women aren’t depicted as real people, but instead caricatures who only exist in the role he has given them.
Blatant sexism aside, when Jamie T. is on, he’s on. The highlights of the album come in “Tescoland” and “Robin Hood.” Both tracks channel the part rock/part 1950s California beach movie blend that he does better than anyone. “Tescoland” is a dance-y acknowledgment of the sometimes shit existence of Londoners. There’s a sense of comradery on display as he sings of the trials and tribulations experienced living in “Tescoland.” “It’s hard for Americans to really understand what it takes from a man,” he sings. Having yet to really break into the American market, this line feels both like an acknowledgment of his relevancy in the UK and Europe and a bit of a distancing from the numerous American-pride-heavy tracks that pervade pop music.
While there are redeeming moments on Trick, none of them are spectacular enough to make up for the mediocrity of the rest. Besides being a cacophony of clashing genres and sounds, the subject matter ventures into offensive territory with his blatant disregard for women. It’s admirable that he is trying to amplify each part of his personal brand, but too much of a good thing can turn bad quickly. Hopefully next time around he will leave some of his more questionable tricks out.