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September 28, 2023

Teezo Touchdown's debut album is disappointing and uninspired

By TIMOTHY MCSHEA | September 15, 2023


PEXELS / CC0 1.0

Teezo Touchdown releases his debut album seven years after he first took on the name. While the album has its highlights, the music still feels unpolished and uninspired, and fails to live up to expectations.

It's rare for an artist to wait seven years before releasing their debut album, especially in the age of streaming and the internet. While singles are a less risky endeavor, and a whole album of music is less likely to retain your audience's attention, the consensus within the music industry is that big artists sell albums. If you hope to gain national recognition, you need to be in the studio working on LPs.

Up-and-coming rapper, producer, songwriter and musician Aaron Thomas, popularly known as Teezo Touchdown, has gone against the grain; up until now, he has only released singles and features for his seven years under the pseudonym. 

His stage name makes him sound like a cartoon character, but Teezo didn't stop there. What he was crafting with this name was more than a silly whim — he was taking on a whole new persona. With leather pants and jacket, thick chains, football eye black, biker gloves and literal construction nails braided into his hair 24/7, would anyone be surprised that he wants to be a rockstar?

Well, the answer is yes, you would be surprised, as long as your only exposure to Teezo was through his first melodic rap single uploaded to Spotify in 2019, titled "Slice," and his features with famous rapper-producers Lil Yachty, Tyler, the Creator and Travis Scott. 

Though he has numerous ties to hip hop and has repeatedly experimented with rap himself, the vast majority of Teezo's solo work is alternative and indie rock; he is unabashedly a rockstar. On his debut album, How Do You Sleep At Night, which was released this past Friday, Sept. 8, this rockstar image was exploited to the fullest.

As he says in "Impossible" off of the new album, "Maybe you wanted to be a DJ / Maybe you didn't have gear / Maybe you wanted to be an artist / but everybody always called you weird / Maybe you wanted to be a rock star / but somebody told you you were too old." The line about DJ gear is a bit confusing, as his father was a DJ and supposedly gave Teezo the opportunity to DJ in the first place, but the desire to be a rock star that he mentions is imperative to how we understand Teezo as an artist.

The intro track, "OK," shares a more triumphant sentiment than the insecurities listed before. The main chorus cries, "Uh-huh, okay / I'm gonna do it anyway," over an arena rock beat which starts and stops in magnificent strides. The verses are melodic but rhythmic and fast-paced in a way that feels like Teezo is returning to his rapping days.

This rap aesthetic carries over into "You Thought," the most recent single off of the album, but with a massive decrease in quality. The drums have a darker, more statically rhythmic, heavy metal experience but, despite the rap-like feel, the song does not have a single moment of lyrical complexity. His verses never seem to go beyond the title, composed entirely of "You would’ve thought…" followed by a punny, comparative statement. 

The delivery is also incredibly awkward, almost sounding like auto-corrective software has reconfigured Teezo's voice on the beat. It veers into that "Hamilton-esque" territory, which is taboo to all modern rappers, where the flow is so dramatic that it feels performative and cliche. This track is annoying to listen to, but it's not even the worst on the album.

"UUHH" finally switches things up — while the distorted guitar still starts and stops with staccato strums, the drums give an 80s synth pop backbeat, and Teezo flaunts his vocal talent with high-pitched inflections over a beautiful chorus. The streak of good tracks continues with "Sweet," which has a chill R&B beat made up of a shaking tambourine, subtle bedroom drums and jazz guitars full of delay. Teezo's performance is a bit underwhelming, but Fousheé's verse fits the music perfectly.

"Impossible," as I mentioned before, is one of the more personal songs on the album. Still, aside from its relevance to Teezo's own career, the whole theme of "nothing is impossible" is a bit cliche and oversimplified. Overall, there aren't a lot of original ideas — lyrically or musically — on this album, but this song in particular feels like a bland and uninspired copy of a pop hit from the 2010s. Teezo's understated delivery doesn't do anything to make the track exciting, either.

Two other songs on the track list where Teezo's cheekiness is at least tolerable for me are "Neighborhood" and "Mood Swings." In "Neighborhood," he talks about his neighbors and the slight annoyances that come from living in close proximity to other people in "the hood." It's a real feel-good beat, almost like an intro to Teezo's family sitcom.

When I first listened to "Mood Swings," I was immediately put off by its hook. The melody sounds almost like a nursery rhyme, though the funky backbeat filled with bass is reminiscent of old 70s funk from groups like Parliament and Funkadelic. Like most of the songs I enjoyed on this album, if I'm at all put off by the hook or verse sections, the chorus reels me back in. The chorus of "Mood Swing" is one of the catchiest on the whole album and one that I can't help dancing to (at least when I'm alone and no one can see me).

"Familiarity," another single off the album which was released back in April, is fittingly more similar to Teezo's past work and one of the highlights of the album. It has a very mellow pop-punk feel, with an incredibly catchy chorus that is remarkably heartfelt. The chorus — "Goodbye momma, I gotta chase these bands / Goodbye daddy, hope you understand" — tells the story of a grateful child who leaves home against his parents' wishes to pursue a turbulent musical career. As the title suggests, Teezo expresses his constant struggles in the early stages of his career, noting the lack of progress but also maintaining that he's a "superstar."

The problem I run across in Teezo's songs is his silliness. In certain contexts, his onomatopoeic "oing oing oing oing oing" (an annoying ad lib he uses to close out "Familiarity") would make me laugh, and I wouldn't see any issue. Teezo could simply be one of those goofy characters that sometimes hits the music scene and makes us laugh over cool, head-bopping beats reminiscent of Eminem and Kanye's earlier work. 

But "Familiarity" is not simply a" cool beat." Its chorus is crooning and melancholy, bittersweet in both lyric and melody. When you near the end, you feel that swell in your heart that feels like real heartbreak, only to hit a brick wall paved with "oings" and whistles that make everything previously built up crumble in seconds.

I have been mildly positive about Teezo's artistic style up until now, but unfortunately, the five closing tracks range from tedious to downright terrible. 

"I Don't Think U C Me" kicks us off with one of the worst intros to a song in recent memory, as Isaiah Rusk sings off-key over what sounds like a GarageBand MIDI guitar. "Daddy Mama Drama" promises a pleasantly melancholic ballad, but offbeat screaming ruins the fun. Even "Nu Nay," with its funky beat, is ruined by its repetitiveness. The ending track, "The Original Was Better," seems at first to be one final display of Teezo's true insecurities. Still, as the outro drags on, we realize Teezo is either unsure of his feelings or can't coherently express them. 

The funniest part of this whole album, to me, comes right at the end, where the mild indie instrumental of the closing track suddenly diverges into an overblown EDM pop beat, which is so out of place that I can't help but laugh every time I hear it. It perfectly encapsulates what is wrong with this album — instead of focusing on tight and unique songwriting, Teezo throws a bunch of genres together and hopes for the best. It's bits like this that show he still has a ways to go as a songwriter and curator.

Undoubtedly, the ending leaves a sour taste, but the first half shows real potential. If there's anything to take away from this album, developing a character and persona to start your musical career does not ensure success. In fact, when forcing an over-the-top or "superstar" image, you risk becoming a caricature of the genre you love. Teezo is a lovable star for his look, goofy character and wild performances. But if he doesn't focus more on being original, he won't develop into the groundbreaking artist he could be.

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