Home Music Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon III: The Chosen

Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon III: The Chosen

Kid Cudi albums are like Marvel movies. Each project dips its toes into a new genre or style, but just beneath the surface are the same palatable motifs of overcoming inner struggles to achieve greatness. They’re filled to the brim with self-referential hype and predictable tropes, yet if you don’t think too hard, their best moments are endearing, entertaining and – dare I say – inspiring.

If you’ll allow the metaphor to be stretched to its breaking point, Man on the Moon III: The Chosen is the next Avengers movie in the Kid Cudi Cinematic Universe. The 18 song epic features many of the tropes with which Scott Mescudi rose to fame on his first two albums: We have his signature humming, space opera beats, and indie contributions from Phoebe Bridgers and Scott Pilgrim. This is somewhat of a relief, as his 2018 Kanye collaboration Kids See Ghosts provided among the only hints of Cudi’s strengths in a decade. On the other hand, it’s tough to see how little progress the Cleveland artist has made after all these years.

A brief instrumental featuring the “In My Dreams” motif from the trilogy’s first two installments and a distant “woah” from Cudi announces the return of Mr. Rager and leads into seven solid but uninteresting trap songs. The first of these is the strongest; “Tequila Shots” sees Cudi reintroducing the trilogy’s themes of mental health struggles with images of “demons” and “this war in me.” The track is simple, earnest and refreshingly low-key, and, for better or worse, the subsequent songs follow suit.

Highlights include the spacey production of “She Knows This” and the sobering chorus of “Damaged,” where an auto-tuned Cudi sings “This is how it goes when you’re a damaged man.” The rapper does a good job emulating the style of Travis Scott, who was himself inspired by Cudi’s early work, but the only truly memorable aspect of the album’s first part is Mescudi’s singing. His vocal tracks act as instrumental layers that fill out these songs nicely, much like Tyler, the Creator on his masterpiece IGOR who similarly shines brighter without features. Skepta and Pop Smoke’s distracting appearances on “Show Out” thus make for a forgettable close to Man on the Moon III’s first part.

The album takes a darker and far more captivating turn with “Solo Dolo, Pt. III.” A horse screams in the distance as Scott Mescudi drowns his pain in tequila, lamenting “something twisted in me” and “many nights I spent gettin’ fucked up, living a lie.” Cudi hasn’t sounded this raw and vulnerable since the first Man on the Moon, on which he sang of “night terrors” and made the most anxious generation feel less alone. The nature of his struggle surfaces on the following “Sad People” with questions like “Will I burn out?” and “Have I been wrong?” This direct address of Cudi’s anxieties begets a more hopeful tone, with typically meaningless ad libs now taking on more significance as shots of confidence.

“Elsie’s Baby Boy (flashback)” is a bit cheesy with its “House Of The Rising Sun” sample, but the ode to his mother is a sweet glimpse of Cudi healing through love and gratitude. Plus, this marks a rare moment of restraint for an artist that often goes overboard with his ideas, with the song’s main section running just over two and a half minutes. A dreamy outro leads into the lovelorn “Sept. 16,” titled after his girlfriend’s birthday. Gorgeous production from FINNEAS makes this ballad an album highlight as Cudi continues to lean on his relationships for inner strength.

The artist’s struggles culminate in the triumphant “The Void,” on which Cudi resolves to take ownership of and do everything to avoid being overtaken by his depression. Accentuated by a passionate and catchy hook, the anthem sits nicely next to his early hits. And if “The Void” is Cudi’s breakthrough, “Lovin’ Me” is a deep breath of relief. Cudi trades verses on growth through self love with indie darling Phoebe Bridgers, whose unique brand of sarcastic vulnerability is a perfect complement to Scott’s straightforward expression of insecurity. The singers regret their past mistakes, lamenting “At times I really didn’t show/ What was wrong with me” but surging forward with hope as they hum in harmony.

The album ends with its worst tracks, which include a cringe-inducing self acknowledgement of Cudi’s mission titled “4 da Kidz” and another lackluster feature (this time from Trippie Redd). There’s quite a lot of fluff on Man on the Moon III, but at the core of the record Kid Cudi seems to have regained his footing as a solo artist. In the outro of “The Void,” he sings over ambient electronics “I’m just trying to be the best man I can be/ Thank you for listening/ Thank you for never leaving.” With all his creative missteps, Scott Mescudi has never apologized for who he is, and he’s at his best when he’s this straightforward, simple and pure.

The 18-song epic, the third in Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon series, we follow him as he struggles with inner demons as he shows us that he’s at his best when he’s straightforward, simple and pure.
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