Love Music is Yelawolf’s second studio album since being picked up by Shady Records and unlike his debut release Radioactive, where other artists featured on more than half the tracks, Yelawolf is now (pretty much) a lone wolf. Throughout the seventy five minute journey, he is joined only by Eminem’s blistering verse on the eighth track, Best Friend, which was released as the album’s fifth single.
I feel like Love Story could be received on either end of the spectrum. You can rest assured that the emcee will mercilessly punch out many a rapping verse laden with attitude, and this is how he sets up the album from the first two tracks Outer Space and Change. However, if you’re a bit of a hip hop purist you might do a double take from what you hear next . The third track, American You foreshadows Yelawolf’s intention to step into pop territory (among other genres like country and bluegrass) multiple times throughout the album. For the first ten seconds of this track I was convinced that I was listening to a cover of John Mayer’s Waiting on the World to Change.
For me this isn’t an issue. We already knew the man can rap, but adding a couple tracks to the album that are sung the whole way through shows he doesn’t want to be constricted to one dimension in his music. Yelawolf gives a moving performance with raw vocals in the melancholy Devil In My Veins, which comes across as a re-worked House of the Rising Sun played at half-tempo. His experimentation also extends past vocals to instrumentation and blending genres. When the bopping, skiffle-style bass came in half way through Have A Great Flight on my first listen, I was momentarily perplexed as it changed the mood and feel of the song. But as it built up rapport with the pattering snare drum I became convinced that this was indeed where the bass belonged.
Comprising eighteen varied tracks, Love Story is one long and winding road of an album. Continuity among tracks is questionable at times; we’re hyped up with the sinister sounding bass and heavy-loaded rapping on Whisky In A Bottle only to be dropped down to the sombre depth of a baritone guitar on Ball And Chain. But the fact that the artist is trying for so many different sounds and revealing an eclectic array of musical influences shows us Yelawolf is hella switched on. He gives us plenty to keep us on our toes, from fierce rapping verses and genuine melodic vocals to gritty guitar riffs and horn sections. And, of course, where would any hip hop record be without the customary shredding fiddle track (yes, you will hear some mean violin solos in the album’s finale Fiddle Me This). All this is the result of having greater creative control over the production process, and he fittingly thanks Eminem for this in the final track: “Thank you Shady/For letting me be me with no holds barred.”
This is relatively lengthy listen that refuses to settle in one place, but it’s home to many well-written and engaging tracks of a personal theme that instill an expectation that Yelawolf is still on the way up.