Album Review: Bazzi – Soul Searching

His name is Andrew Bazzi: A kid from Canton, Michigan, whose Lebanese from his father’s side, who early on found passion in music, learning musical instruments like guitar and oud and eventually posted song covers on social media that helped to create a platform for himself as an artist. First YouTube in 2012, then a year later on Vine, a video hosting service that gained popularity in the mid-to-late 2010s for sharing short six-second long video clips. His short covers like ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ by The Weeknd, or ‘Just Can’t Let Her Go’ by One Direction, helped create a fanbase for Bazzi, who performs solely with his last name, and gained him 1.5 million followers on Vine in 2015. This positive outlook made fans dig into his own projects, with summer-track ‘Fun’, a 2016 collaboration with electronic group Fancy Cars, taking small but steady steps into the music business. Bazzi is very keen on writing and creating his own music, and as he mentioned at the Zach Sang Show in 2018, he never wants to compromise his artistry to fit the mainstream, just like his idol Prince. His 2017 self-released single ‘Mine’ can be seen as a great example of that fact. An own unique style that attracted the audience like a magnet, without shaping the song to fit radio. It just happened that ‘Mine’ became an internet meme out of the blue, especially on Snapchat filters, and started appearing in charts. Releasing an urban and colorful music video to support the song, with Bazzi flying and floating in the air (just like Kendrick Lamar in his video for ‘Alright’) and eventually entering the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 11. Bazzi’s success was then followed by ‘Cosmic’ (2018), his debut album which also included hit single ‘Beautiful’ that he first released as a solo track, then as a feature with Camila Cabello.

Bazzi cherishes his steady way to fame, as he is grateful for every little thing but also seeks to enjoy the moment in the present time. With ‘Cosmic’ though, he described the album as “the story of what I was and what I’m becoming” to Zach Sang in that same interview from 2018. For his 2019 mixtape-release, the 11-track ‘Soul Searching’, he added to the title the words ‘A Journey of Love Pain and Growth’, while the cover art shows doves flying in front of him. This makes you wonder how his journey continued after his biographical ‘Cosmic’ that showcased chapters of his life from a working process of three years. Let’s see what Bazzi shares to the world in his mixtape that promises autobiographical content like he is known for.

Soul Searching – A Journey of Love, Pain, and Growth (Cover Art)

Like mentioned prior, the mixtape is described as a journey of love, pain and growth. And indeed, just like the subtitle promises, the 11 tracks of the entire ‘Soul Searching’ project can actually be divided into these three categories.

Love: The best way to describe the category of ‘love’ is in its intensity that he offers the listener in the album’s lyrical content. When Bazzi exclaimed in his breakthrough record ‘Mine’ that he is “so f***ing happy” his girlfriend is alive, describing her like a star “just like Mariah”, he then decides to be more bluntly direct in the mixtape’s highlight track ‘I.F.L.Y.’ – an acronym for ‘I f***ing love you’. The easy beach vibes with acoustic guitar and a simple beat remind of a chillout Justin Bieber, with a neon-colored music video filled with beautiful models to help create a certain feeling that the song wants to deliver. Not much different in ‘Live Forever’, where strong feelings in a relationship give a desire to live forever with their lover.

‘I.F.L.Y.’ Official Music Video

Just when you think you heard it all, Bazzi did not yet finish pouring his heart out. In “one, two, three, four…” he starts his rapping and singing in ‘Paradise’ with violin and cello strings as a backup, and with his unapologetic tongue starts the first verse with “Hands on your body, I’m grabbing your ass / Enjoying the moment, ’cause life move too fast”. The song continues with creative lyrics and melodies that find its middle in the euphoric hook that gives his vision about what paradise feels like for him. With a blue color themed music video released in April 2019, Bazzi shows a different side of himself, wearing suit and bow tie, standing on a blue rectangle box outside in the garden, accompanied by two violin and two cello players who cover their faces in blue cloths. Switching to parties, hanging by the pool, to resting on a mirrored floor with his girl looking at the sky, then later standing together in the rain to showcase an intense love. These open pages of strong feelings for each other makes it almost sad, but also gives a realistic view when Bazzi reveals the cracks in ‘Can We Go Back to Bed?’ – an open book about a relationship he lost and, very noticeable, points out how much he missed the family of his past love as well, admitting they felt like his own that he did not have.

‘Paradise’ Official Music Video

Pain: While ‘Can We Go Back to Bed?’ easily could fall into the segment of ‘pain’ as well, it’s the opener of ‘Soul Searching’ that paints the picture of pain in form of reflection and loneliness: ‘Humble Beginnings’. Starting off with a cheering crowd but then quickly follows with a rewind-sound as Bazzi goes back to reflect his steps of fame. The sounds of a saxophone picture a scenario of dark alleys as if he takes a walk alone to put the pieces of a puzzle together: “Lebanese blood, I was born ambitious / My pops told me, if you want it, go get it”. It feels as if Bazzi takes the moment to realize how it all got together, and how all the trials and tribulations eventually brought him where he is now. One of these trials may be the self-doubt that he describes in ‘Fallin’. Supported with the sounds of gentle piano keys, like an emotional breakdown in a movie, ‘Fallin’ not only discusses insecurities but puts other inner devils in the limelight: Bazzi defines the art of overthinking that easily shake hands with insomnia. Other aspects, like liquor and drugs, play a part in the track as well, and is backed-up by rapper 6LACK who pops up like a surprise feature – rapping about his drug use to kill sorrows: “I been feelin’ down, guess I’ll smoke a blunt / Look up to the sky, pray for what I want.”

Growth: “Remember when they never show me love? Remember when they said I’m not enough? Now I’m probably flyer than a dove”. The lyrics of the title track ‘Soul Searching’ follow like a continuation of a thoughtful ‘Humble Beginnings’. Only this time Bazzi steps out with more self-confidence and literally more ‘growth’. The comfy bells that start out the track feel like a jungle in Asia, then later a few beats come in for some hip-hop touches. Bazzi is now standing on both feet, and like a shark that smelled blood won’t lose his focus. ‘No Way!’ may also be a good example in that case – it’s like he already got the taste of it and won’t back up no more. It’s the motivation that gets him going. With strength and confidence, Bazzi exclaims the lyrics of the song supported with electric guitar, with a style that could easily pass for being part of a soundtrack of a Fast & Furious movie: “It’s a high-speed chase / Push the pedal to the floor.”

To top it all up, Bazzi makes sure to ditch the haters in ‘Focus’, with rapper 21 Savage as backup, and with some urban ghetto flavors he strengthens his desire to keep moving.

‘Soul Searching’ Official Music Video

The ‘Soul Searching’ mixtape then ends with a thoughtful note, first gospel-influenced ‘Conversations with Myself’, then ‘Who Am I?’ Both titles already say what they say, with ‘Conversations’ literally being a talk with himself: Two verses in spoken word form mixed with melodies. The freestyle monologues remind of Miley Cyrus’ ‘BB Talk’, only Miley used a more loudmouthed way to express her feelings. Bazzi instead stays chill and calm, reflecting his life, the sudden fame and if it was what he expected. He carries his loneliness with him, and like an open book continues by questioning his being and who he is in the final track ‘Who Am I?’, longing to go back to his younger days, feeling isolated by fake people, addressing Instagram and people’s unreal life’s they portray there, as one of the triggers.

Bazzi gives ‘Soul Searching’ as a gift for his fans, underlining the previous concept and lyrical content from his 2018 debut ‘Cosmic’. A mixtape to maybe find a middle of his out-of-nowhere fame, as everything did happen very fast for him, but still doesn’t want to take a break as of now. The fans have spoken, as ‘Soul Searching’ reached number 20 on the Billboard Charts, even though it was not promoted as an actual studio album, but more as a giveaway. Stylewise, Bazzi is known to keep his songs short and sweet, just like in ‘Cosmic’ before, and ‘Soul Searching’ is no different: ‘Humble Beginnings’ is with 3 minutes and 4 seconds the longest track of the album. All other tracks are less than 3 minutes long, some even less than 2. For Bazzi, it’s his short attention span, and a song would become boring for him when it’s too stretched out. Funny enough, that’s not always noticeable and also does not disturb the listening experience. But certain songs, like ‘No Way!’ for example, may have had more potential as a longer track as it would continue a nice flow that the song already has.

On another note, some tracks miss some surprise moments here and there. What you hear is basically what you get. You could say, the style is mirrored to ‘Cosmic’, but what’s most important is that he carries it on his own. His lyrics though are maybe even more important than anything. Bazzi shares his inner soul, not only love, pain and growth, but all the lines in between. Overthinking and overanalyzing, and as real and true to himself as he can be. A great poster child for the new generation of artists.

Highlight Tracks:
Soul Searching
Conversations with Myself
Who Am I?

Full Track List:
Humble Beginnings
Soul Searching
No Way!
Fallin (feat. 6LACK)
Can We Go Back to Bed?
Live Forever
Focus (feat. 21 Savage)
Conversations with Myself
Who Am I?

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