Amine – Good For You (2017)

It’s always interesting to consider “purpose” in music. What is an artist’s purpose in creating an album? Is it to make people dance? Is it to make people cry? Is it to tell a story? Is it to be abrasive? Is it to be catchy? Is it to end up on pop radio? Is it to make fun of pop radio? An artist can make music for any reason at all. It’s doubly interesting to think about the way one judges the artist’s purpose as you evaluate the art. Is it justifiable for an incredibly catchy pop album to be lambasted for having trite lyrics? Can a lyrically dense and beautifully written folk album be criticized for being boring to listen to without listening closely to the lyrics?

Amine’s debut album Good For You is a catchy pop-rap album that does a great job of showcasing Amine’s strengths: he’s charming, has a great personality, writes solid hooks and catchy songs, and also does a great job selecting beats and producers. On the other hand, Amine struggles (especially as the album goes into its second half) at managing to have enough to say, to say it in interesting and diverse ways, and to come across as heartfelt. At times, it feels like Amine wrote down a bunch of common pop-rap talking points – money, girls, fame – and bulked up his album by writing a song for each. He also clearly needs work in diversifying his flows and improving his wordplay and writing. Put another way, I’m not that sure Amine is a very good rapper. Nonetheless, the strengths of this album carry it far on the strongest tracks of the bunch. Most of this album is ridiculously catchy, very well produced, and a particularly charming debut.

It’s overwhelmingly clear which tracks on Good For You work and which ones don’t. When Amine lays down a catchy hook and the beat is solid, the song soars. A lot of the hooks here are not the most inventive (the yelling chorus in “Yellow”, the airhorn introducing the hook in “Wedding Crashers”) but Amine almost always pulls it off well. On some of these tracks the hook is absolutely awesome: “Caroline” and the bonus track “Heebiejeebies” are probably the two best songs on the album because of how great the hooks are. As I said above, I think part of the reason the hooks and even a lot of the verses work so well even when they are not very unique is because Amine gives off a lot of personality and charm in this album. Good For You is named well: it’s pleasant, friendly, and it almost feels like part of the charm of the album that it feels a little safe at times. This was something I was feeling even in my review of the “Wedding Crashers” single from last week. That same vibe I felt on the single has gone on to form the overall atmosphere for the album, and it fits nicely. The elements that make up most of this album do not sound as well on paper, but it’s way greater than the sum of its parts due to Amine’s personality and charm.

The beats and production also cannot go unmentioned as they are probably the highlight of the entire album. Most of the beats here are minimalist, bass-heavy, bouncy tracks with little highlights that fit perfectly. After a handful of listens, I found myself getting excited for these little details when I knew one of my favorite beats was coming up: the whining synth-y sound in “Yellow”, the trap-like drop in “Turf”, and the piano right at the start of “Heebiejeebies” is amazing. To be completely honest, even the tracks that I really don’t dig have awesome instrumentals. “STFU” has a terrible hook and the auto-tone is complete overkill, but it’s probably one of my favorite beats. The slew of producers that worked on this album (including Amine himself) did a fantastic job making the fun, poppy atmosphere of this album remain interesting and consistent throughout. It helps immensely to improve my overall opinion of this album to have this level of consistency in the production, because Amine himself definitely is lacking consistency in his performances.

In general, I had the feeling throughout Good For You that Amine might just need to trust himself a little more. Although charming, he comes across as a little reserved. It is as if you can tell he’s holding back from sharing more here. Songs like “Spice Girl” and “Money” are so completely generic lyrically that it almost comes across like a little boy or girl hiding candy behind their back and trying to convince you they haven’t stolen anything. These songs are such generic topics for pop rap that it makes me almost certain that Amine has much more to say about the women and money in his life, even if that is a bit oxymoronic. If that is not the case, Amine’s future looks much more bleak as a rapper, because he has stunningly little to say for a debut. I’ve always liked the idea that an artist has their entire life to create their first work, but only the time in between the first and second to make their second work. If Amine opens up his heart and mind to the audience a little bit more in the future, we can all only hope that it is full of more than catchy hooks.

Even as a rapper, Amine struggles. Within his verses, he clearly does not have a lot of flow diversity and his wordplay and punchlines at best add a bit to his charm. At worst, they are completely laughable and would probably be inexcusable even in the cafeteria. While from a lyrical standpoint I’m convinced that Amine can take a little introspective time and really improve on the next album, I worry about his rapping skills. There is a huge gap to cross here. This is part of the reason why he came across as so raw in his XXL freestyles and cyphers. As a goofy guy writing catchy hooks on these bouncing beats he can hide his rapping shortcomings, but on the generic grimy hip-hop beats that he has to spit over for XXL, Amine gets exposed. I could not shake the feeling while listening to Good For You that Amine has quite a bit of feature potential or even pop potential here with just how good his hooks are. I would take no issue with him scaling back the hip-hop focus on his next album and coming through with something much poppier, because that is where his strengths lie right now.

Back to my discussion about purpose: I think my score is going to be higher than this review may let on for this album, but I enjoyed Good For You. I am having a hard time really faulting Amine for coming across as raw or generic on his debut when half the tracks here are perfectly enjoyable pop-rap songs, and it feels like that’s what Amine wanted to create. He’s clearly not trying to tell a story here (not a very deep one), and although his flows, wordplay, and overall rapping skills are not great, they also are not showcased. Although it’s obvious that Amine has clear strengths and weaknesses, Good For You plays to his strengths and I appreciate that. Purpose is important.

Nonetheless, I frankly do not have as much to say about Good For You as I often do in these reviews because it just is not very deep. It’s a surface level pop-rap album that is mostly catchy and has consistently good production and beats. Like many debut albums, Good For You is an album of extremes, and after becoming pretty comfortable with this album I find most of the tracks either fantastic or completely skippable. I loved “Yellow”, “Caroline”, “Wedding Crashers”, “Sundays”, “Turf”, and “Heebiejeebies” and have been playing these songs constantly. Yet in the tracks where Amine does not lay down a catchy hook, or really exposes his hip-hop deficiencies, or his wordplay is cheesy or unexciting, Amine looks like a bust. Regardless, there is enough charm here and a clear ear for catchiness that I’m excited for his next project and still really content with Good For You as a debut. Only time will tell if Amine has something meaningful to say and can come up with a more unique way to say it.

5/10

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