After a seven-year hiatus Jamiroquai is back, but instead of bringing something fresh to the table he’s serving up bland, featureless emotions; like an egg, smooth but with no distinguishable characteristics. As one of the most predictable and over-celebrated musicians in pop, he has managed to build an empire on mediocrity. Automaton, his eighth studio album, is an extension of his play-it-safe ethos; milk-and-water beats coupled with substandard lyricism.
Automaton combines the most basic elements of funk, boogie and disco. In Jamiroquai’s hands it takes on the consistency of baby food, textureless and devoid of flavor. Lyrically he’s never been cutting edge, but the tendency to land on the safe side, no matter what topic he’s addressing is exhausting; from love loss and cultural faux pas to lust he only scratches the surface, never daring to be different and content with status quo. Yet another drab effort from pop music’s most boring cousin.
Tripping the light fantastic from the opening kick to the final snare. The disco ball is spinning wildly, sugarcoating the dance floor with all the pretty colors. It’s highly polished, so much so that it renders the lyrics meaningless. He’s thirsting for unbridled hedonism but only offering up pedestrian punchlines. Forgettable and bland, a hop back up on the bike but with training wheels: [LISTEN]
High voltage electrons course through his veins leaving him coldblooded and heartless. He’s reminiscing over the feel of the music, and the memories are slowly bringing warmth back into his body. He’s tearing the circuitry from his skin and commenting on how disconnected we’ve all become. It’s morbid and critical, yet groovy in all the right ways. Shadow dancing during hard times: [LISTEN]
Mid-’80s Stevie Wonder would be proud. The melodies bounce about haplessly, giving way to feelings of indifference and uncertainty. Like a jilted lover he’s reeling off all the reasons why it was a bad idea to leave him, not realizing how desperate he sounds. This is his Cloud 9, and it’s annoyingly obsessive. It’s him saying he doesn’t care, but in ways that says he really does: [LISTEN]
Electro-funk madness that has the soul feeling like a crappy carnival ride. The hackneyed beat and saccharine lyrics distort his sense of direction, which leaves him feeling dazed and confused. The beat, however, is in perfect order, but the seamless edges leave it featureless; without character or a discernible personality. A vision that is as generic as the title suggests: [LISTEN]
A greasy hook marks a treacherous point in the album, the audible equivalent to a cheap Hawaiian shirt. He’s never been known for his groundbreaking lyrics, but the thoughtless writing has it feeling like a bad night in the most touristy part of Cancun. It’s Bud Light, neon sandals, Pizza Hut; all the best things about summer but filtered through a generic lens. The old guy at the club: [LISTEN]
Soft, adult contemporary that is about as savory as an old avocado. The gross one liners just keep coming like and endless flow of ranch dressing. His lady friend is lingering in his mind and he can’t let her go. It’s his way of saying ‘stay,’ the typical thing you’d hear from a fool in lust. Nothing is real or authentic, and the grandstanding is only making it worse. A fool’s lament: [LISTEN]
Every godawful wedding song wrapped into one, the opposite of what summer is about. The point is to be loose and free, ready for whatever the bright sun and warm breeze brings. Instead of joyous spontaneity, he offers up bland spoonfuls of the everyday. Every facet is draped in mediocrity, from the baby soft harmonies and lackluster percussion to the lifeless lyrics. Shameful in every way: [LISTEN]
Loose booty bass, and broken beats make for a disjointed party. The generic samples are distasteful, and are enough a drag to make even the most casual world music fan groan in disbelief. The laziness siphons every ounce of credibility, which makes his critiques toward the glitterati seem frivolous and arbitrary. His attempt at cutting edge rhythms is weak and a reminder that the end is near: [LISTEN]
The buzz is reaching its apex and he’s already looking for his next fix. And like most fiends he’s forgetting about all the details, stumbling around like a sloppy vagrant. The search has him scrumming around trashy beats and the stench is saturating every facet of his being. The space is muddled and all the components are in competition with one another; the lack of cohesion, damning: [LISTEN]
An us against the world jam made up of false hopes and frail dreams. It’s a toxic environment that does little to motivate the overall mood. Downtrodden and uninspired, he mulls around like an old dog. The lack of motivation is working against the main idea, which has the ear feeling worn out and tired. Devoid of energy and enthusiasm, the sound flounders; a flat showing with no fire: [LISTEN]
Bloated basslines and bi-polar beat craft, leaves the sense dulled. He’s taking a pass on the vitamins when he should be wolfing them down by the bottle. Lethargic writing only adds to the myalgia, and with no sign of help in sight he simply gives in. The slow death is accented by moments of desperation. The tide is working against him, and he’s being consumed by the inevitable: [LISTEN]
A strange mixture of boogie, new wave and disco. Each individual element is well made, but together it doesn’t amount to a damn thing; as if he didn’t marinate it nearly as long as he should have. There is no substitute for time and effort, and the absence of refinement cuts his emotions short at every turn. With no distinguishing features to speak of, Carla is left wanting more: [LISTEN]