There it was. After two years, the voice we loved — that garbled, processed, quivering, mush-mouthed voice singing nigh-unintelligible nonsense — was back. Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, better known as PartyNextDoor, had unfortunately been in the wilderness for a while. Since becoming a micro-icon to a generation of bloggers and Drake stans in a startling short amount of time back in 2013, not a day has gone by in which a sad (if unoriginal) fan isn’t reposting “Break From Toronto” to social media. There have also been collaborations with EDM titans (Major Lazer, Calvin Harris) and pop stars (Zayn), music videos featuring Kylie Jenner, and on-again, off-again TMZ updates with Kehlani. In spite of that — or because of — he dropped two certified classics (PARTYNEXTDOOR, P2) and became a legitimate behind-the-scenes threat, writing hits for Rihanna (“Work,” “Sex With Me”), Beyoncé (“Shining”), and Drake (on too many songs to count).
But as PND’s profile grew, his music suffered. His third album, P3, was a slog. The less said about 2017’s Seven Days the better. Everything, from PND’s voice to his pen, was wearing thin. But “Loyal,” which PND dropped on Friday, feels like a re-centering for an artist with an outsized artistic footprint this decade.
Produced by Dregotjuice, Noah “40” Shebib, and OG Parker, “Loyal” sees the Mississauga musician shed his angst and patent prickliness. The tropical pop and drastic AutoTune vocal runs are intact, but there’s also a new sense of sweetness — instead of the usual overflowing horniness (check out the highly underrated song “FWU, which is about, well, trying to fuck with you) that characterized most of PND’s later work. “You’re my best friend,” PND sings, extending the “end” into a long coo. Later, PND doubles down on the saccharine, “We spent the last three summers on our own / We get it on and then you go / I just don’t want anyone / No one at home.”
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Drake eventually makes an appearance, but his contribution feels less than vital; more a sentient streaming bump than something that was artistically needed. After years of decline, “Loyal” is a return to Party’s world. Everything else feels superfluous.