Monday, February 4th, 2019

James Blake ft. Travis Scott & Metro Boomin – Mile High

We once again take out or Blakeometer to measure the limits of our love.


Thomas Inskeep: On their collaboration with James Blake, Travis Scott and Metro Boomin meet him on his playground, pitching it down, getting Valium-slow. “Less is always more” is truth in this case, as going in the opposite direction might’ve sounded ridiculous. Instead, “Mile High” sounds naturally woozy, and all the participants sound better for it.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Sick Travis Scott song but why is there just some white dude muttering stuff over it?

Alfred Soto: A useful and sometimes adjunct to R&B stars looking for garishly lit melancholia, James Blake shares the spotlight with the inevitables. Yet Travis Scott has woven — has ridden — this chic melancholia for the better part of a year, so when a committed purveyor offers himself as one of the help this purveyor sounds like a redundancy. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim:Limit to Your Love” was always the worst track on James Blake’s debut, so it’s a shame that all his work from 2013-onward has found him leaning into the most tedious of singer-songwriter modes. Long gone is the remotely interesting production he once employed; everything he does now has the same swaths of plaintive pianos and synths that peddle bromidic melancholy via unsophisticated blue-eyed soul and nocturnal R&B. Blake’s croaking voice is uninterested and uninteresting, and Travis Scott’s on AutoTune autopilot. “I’m not keeping score,” sings Blake. I am:

Josh Love: This stays just on the right side of the line between hypnotic and catatonic, which is more than I can say for a healthy chunk of Blake’s newest album, which I’m now convinced should have been a full-on joint effort with Scott and Metro. For Blake’s sake I’ll at least say he embarrasses himself far less alongside rappers than Ed Sheeran.

Danilo Bortoli: Back at the beginning of the decade, James Blake surfaced as the symbol of the post-dubstep “movement,” a tag which grew meaningless (remember?) over time. Once defiant, he used to manipulate silence to prove his point and carve sound out of thin air. Over the years, however, his music became more and more palatable. Slowly, he became a soulman, a crooner. That transition has not been bad per se, yet it’s come with a sacrifice of the weirdness which characterized so much of his earlier work. “Mile High” epitomizes this shift: instead of tension, it promotes comfort, with sound and style so well-rounded and whole they leave no room for doubts and questions. Technically and aesthetically perfect, his 2019 version of the sound he helped develop years ago might as well be the 2019 version of the New Boring. That’s at least a bit curious, really: “that less is always more,” Blake says in the chorus. Had it been sung in 2011, it would have been a smart defense of his minimalism. In 2019, though, it feels like plain, downright creative atrophy.

Vikram Joseph: The production builds a thick, murky, subterranean ambience, and Travis Scott’s vocals don’t sound out of place. But while this is a relatively straightforward song, you couldn’t describe it as linear because that would imply that it actually progressed in some direction; it feels more like swimming against a current that holds you exactly where you are. The atmosphere holds its shape, but “Mile High” lacks the vision to use it for something memorable.

Edward Okulicz: James Blake has impeccable taste (Exhibit A: the 100% delightful Jameela Jamil) and this cocktail of producers (including Blake) manages to make Travis Scott sound equally wallpaper-tasteful is worthy of both condemnation and awe. For all that I like the wafting voices in and out of the mix, giving “Mile High” a strange, dreamlike quality. I honestly can’t even hear Scott say “mile high clubbin'” and the line about Duracell which is pathetically dated. The whole thing is like drifting slowly in and out of a state of complete tastefulness.

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