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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

‘INTENTION’ Album Review 


(Photo from Spotify)

“It has been a minute, but we are back”: this time, with a review of George Watsky’s new album “INTENTION.” The third and final installment of what the slam-poet-turned-musician calls “the Symmetry trilogy,” the release is Watsky’s first full-length album in nearly three years. 

I first heard of Watsky, whose last name doubles as his stage name, when he was featured as a performer in the “Epic Rap Battles of History” YouTube series. After getting his start in slam poetry by winning the 2006 Brave New Voices poetry slam competition, he took his spoken-word talents to YouTube in the form of incredibly fast rapping and quick-witted lyricism. Over a discography of seven studio albums and a multitude of live albums and extended plays, he honed these abilities. 

“INTENTION” follows January 2019’s “COMPLAINT” and March 2020’s “PLACEMENT,” with the three albums employing similar visual stylings and general aesthetics. The album covers were designed to fit together as a cohesive unit, and when they’re put side by side, the album names can all be read left to right. It’s obvious that this whole project was filled with “INTENTION” from the start, pun entirely intended. 

That comment about intention, however, contrasts with the messaging from the opening track, “THE PLAN IS A MESS,” which focuses on rolling with the punches even when the best-made plans need to change. The last few years have been emblematic of this mindset for Watsky, who was forced to repeatedly reschedule and later cancel “The PLACEMENT Tour” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Musically, “THE PLAN IS A MESS” starts with a slow piano intro and relaxing chorus before rapidly building intensity in the verses. Watsky combines fast rapping and weird vocal inflections to show just how messy his “plan” has become. While some of the original songs that he became famous for were relatively straightforward with a few fast rap bits, these days he has no problem combining plenty of different stylings into a killer track. 

 The song ends with Watsky giving shoutouts to everyone who worked on “INTENTION” — as well as Pat Dimitri, who worked on “COMPLAINT” but is apparently now “slangin’ NFTs.” These shoutouts, however, don’t include mentions of the several featured artists that appear in the tracklist, including on the next track. 

“WHAT’S THE MOVE?” features legendary rapper T-Pain, whose bread and butter is his autotune styling. This signature is more than present on this song, along with an overpowering brass section and a drum beat that’s more than worthy of lyrics like “gadunkadunk built like a Tonka truck.” That lyric is one of the lesser-charged ones on this track, but the song, by-and-large, sees Watsky and a partner at a crossroads: while they enjoy each other’s company, do they want to stay together long-term?  

He frames this question as probative, willing to accept any outcome, as “we all got different visions of joy,” but indicates that he would do it all again if he had a second chance. Considering the actual lyrical content of the track, these themes feel really intense. 

This project had three singles leading up to its release: “AWW SHiT,” “ROLLIN,” and “Paper Nihilist.” The first of those songs, “AWW SHiT,” was teased on Twitter after almost a full year’s hiatus from the artist; the track itself was released two days later with an accompanying music video. It features Hollis, an indie artist and high school classmate of Watsky’s who released her first solo album in 2022. The track also features Seattle-based Gifted Gab, who took on the song’s second verse. 

“ROLLIN,” featuring Camila Recchio, shares some themes with “THE PLAN IS A MESS,” but instead of the “plan” being self-devised, the song focuses on inheriting a broken world and making it your own. This theme feels particularly potent considering the climate crisis that our generation has inherited, and this song will only continue to feel prescient as times change. Camila Recchio, the featured artist on this track, is a long-time collaborator with Watsky, with their shared discography spanning over half a decade. 

“Paper Nihilist” is one of my favorite Watsky songs and one of my favorites on the album. The production is so pleasant to listen to that I hope he releases an instrumental, but even with lyrics, the song is a joy to listen to. It discusses the intersection of a world with no meaning and the desire for a sense of self. Fitting what is now a consistent theme on the album, the song is ultimately about battling adversity and winning, with Watsky’s nihilism turning into optimism. 

The last song I want to feature is “MILE AWAY,” a track that I knew would be the closer for the album on first listen. Featuring stunning vocals by Rachel Zegler, the song looks to the future before a beautiful outro that ties the album up with a nice little bow. It was an intensely satisfying conclusion to this round of songs and the entire Symmetry trilogy… wait, why is there another song playing?! 

When “DOT XXX,” the actual finale, came on, I literally yelled and texted a friend at 1 a.m. in total disbelief. With the perfect song on which to end the album having just concluded, what more could Watsky possibly have to say? As it turns out, he had a lot to keep talking about! 

A mostly percussive song, “DOT XXX” is seemingly the conclusion to two different trilogies: the Symmetry trilogy of albums and what I’ll call the “dot” trilogy. That second trilogy features 2016’s “Don’t Be Nice” and 2019’s “Advanced Placement,” which all refer to domain names that begin with “KissWatskysGluteusMaximus.”  

These websites, kisswatskysgluteusmaximus.com, .net, and now .xxx, all contained easter eggs when visited. This newest entry is special, however, for being the start of an alternate reality game, or ARG for short. While the goal of this ARG was uncertain at first, it was soon revealed that “INTENTION” is not a nine-song album, but a double release with 18 songs, and that the ARG would be the key to “unlocking the second half.”  

The official website for the game included a link to a Discord server for players to discuss clues and theories. I’ve never had to split an album review into parts before, so I’m not going to give a crab rating until after the remaining songs’ release. I’m beyond impressed, however, with the artistry and creativity that Watsky put into this first half, and I’m excited to see the second part! 

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Evan Markowitz, Guest Contributor
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