By now, most Lupe Fiasco fans know of his struggles with Atlantic over the release, and likely, the content of his third album, Lasers. The result of that struggle is an album filled with synth-electro-pop production, a tired (or beaten) Lupe, and what the hell–some auto-tuned hooks too. That is not to say the production is subpar, it’s just that it does not seem to fit the emcee’s subject matter.
It’s clear that this album is pushing for more pop appeal. (Imagine more “Superstar” and less “SLR”). That fact is made more obvious by Lupe’s recent interviews. He expresses genuine discontent with this album’s production process, and that appears to come through in his performance. We do not get the wit and head-spinning precision seen in Food & Liquor and we do not see the deeper Lupe from The Cool. Whether from lack of focus, label pressure, or just making it more palatable for the listener, we get a “dumbed down” version of Lupe for the majority of this album.
The album’s opener, “Letting Go (featuring Sarah Green)” with its sleepy, emo, auto-tuned hook truly sets the tone for the album. Lupe reflects on his current situation and the industry, but the song sounds dated, even though it feels like it’s aiming for a B.o.B. “Airplanes” appeal. Lupe goes for a double-time flow on “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now”, which has a synth-bounce straight from the Far East Movement’s catalog. It’s a pure club track, and Lupe sounds out of place on it.
“Words I Never Said” is one of the better songs on the album, despite the currently omnipresent Skylar Grey’s feathery emo-chorus. The sound is slightly heavier, but the synth is also slightly overbearing. Lupe is closer to his top form here lyrically, but it is difficult to digest the heavy rhetoric and conspiracy theories over such an upbeat radio-targeted track. It just doesn’t fit. Another highlight is the first single, “The Show Goes On”. This head-nodder really hits the target, and Lupe rides the track perfectly. The album needed more of this vibe (like the stellar “I’m Beaming”, included as a bonus track, not included in this review), but that turned out not to be the case. Trey Songz phones in his best R. Kelly impression for the super-generic “Out of My Head”. Lupe’s verses are largely metaphorical in this one, but that will likely be lost on the target audience. This one will probably be a hit on black radio.
Much of the remainder of the album finds Lupe half-heartedly plowing through lackluster production, pop-rock choruses, and a few more R&B pairings. And that seems to be the overall feel of this album, that Lupe is not fully invested in this project. That said, as of this review’s press time, Lasers has performed better at retail than his previous efforts. Hopefully, with his label woes soon-to-be behind him, fans of his previous efforts will look forward to the next release.