Saturday, October 12th, 2019

Travis Scott – Highest in the Room

Middling on the Jukebox…


Jackie Powell: For a single that’s supposed to represent the struggle and end of one of the most high profile relationships in pop culture, Travis Scott’s delivery and lazy flow ruin the ability of the listener to really understand his pain and predicament. This track clocks in at less than three minutes, but it’s just gloomy, and it’s not an emotionally driven murk, but a tired and sleepy one. His lyrics elicit a relatable emotion, but his tone and intonation don’t fluctuate. He sounds indifferent and that’s disappointing. I rarely agree with Anthony Fantano, but he’s correct when he says that this track is “kind of like the [single] cover in that it’s kind of like a ladder to nowhere.” But maybe that’s the point. Is that what Scott actually feels? Possibly. There’s an ambiguity associated with being a king of the clouds. It’s scary as hell, but again Scott doesn’t make listeners want to sympathize. The redeeming qualities of this “ASTROWORLD” b-side are how it starts and finishes. Scott is experiencing a phase as a spaceman renegade and that’s why he wanted an intro and outro laced with a haunting high synth, functioning as a set-piece to illustrate extraterrestrial life. The acoustic loop that threads through the majority of the track is a nice departure and juxtaposition to the heavy-hitting percussion. The piano chords in the last 36 seconds sound like producers Mike DeanOZNik D are building toward something a bit more compelling, but alas the last synthetic slide results in silence.

Alfred Soto: The title isn’t a boast so much as a statement. He had me at “She filled my mind with ideas/I’m the highest in the room” — no one’s come up with enjambment this startling since Robert Lowell. High or not, I’d keep the pistol away from him. The rest is the usual clickety-trap.

Hazel Southwell: I hated this and then thought it was quite catchy and then hated it again, all of which seems to depend on how much echo effect is making itself unwelcome over the top of an otherwise decent, artfully sleepy but rhythmically exact flow. 

Will Adams: Travis Scott’s Auto-Tuned vocals usually lend him an endearingly woozy quality. But combining that with production this foggy makes me feel like the drunkest in the room.

Oliver Maier: Travis Scott continues to sell low-effort hip-hop in sleek, purportedly forward-thinking packaging. There is just enough here — the woozy theremin, the Beautiful Dark Twisted outro — to suggest some kind of thematic intent, but the slightest closer look will reveal that it’s cut from the same aimless, hypnagogic cloth as Astroworld. A potentially interesting emotional angle rears its head in the lines “I’m doin’ a show, I’ll be back soon / That ain’t what she wanna hear”, but it’s resolved just as quickly by the reconciliatory sex bars that follow, then we’re right back to the grocery list of Scottisms. It’s music boasting the pretense of depth with nothing to back it up; you thought it was an ocean, it’s just a pool.

Julian Axelrod: “Highest in the Room”: great title! Maybe the ultimate Travis Scott title, which is appropriate for a song that attempts to capture Travis Scott’s Whole Thing in a scant three minutes. The lilting strings and UFO whirrs are lovely, but they do a lot of the heavy lifting on a song that’s surprisingly light on relationship or drug drama. Scott lives up to the title, his weary drone sounding like he’s six hours deep into a rager and can barely muster the energy to engage with his surroundings. However, the “Highest in the Room” hoopla has given us one of the defining texts of his career: “The end isn’t for decoding. Just vibe.” Maybe that’s the ultimate Travis Scott title.

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