SAINt JHN’s music video for the single “Roses” sees him and several flunkies trouncing through what appears to be an apartment complex, destroying everything from windows and television sets to an abstract religious pomp and people. A simple analysis of the video eclipses any premature, irrational or face-value speculation about what the peculiar video means: when paired with the lyricism of the track itself, the video symbolizes an invasion of music on the part of SAINt JHN. The Brooklynite has arrived in stunning fashion and everyone needs to perk up.
The video for “Roses,” while a bit cheap and underwhelming, is the terrain for SAINt JHN’s debut studio album, Collection One. Although deemed as an album, the 13-track project plays more like a mixtape. In the world of SAINt JHN, there is no framework and lulling. Rather, there is only breakneck breathing spaces and wilderness, as life calls for a soiree every night.
Collection One, sonically, is unspoiled for phantom-like, misdirecting trap music. F A L L E N, SAINt JHN’s closest collaborator, has an uncanny aptness for combining spacey aesthetics with polychromatic synthesizers. “N***a Shit” and “I Heard You Got Too Litt Last Night” are club jammers with radio-ready presentations. “Traci Lords” takes a darker switch, with bloody acid-house sounds accompanying familiar trap snares and hats. “Selfish” separates itself from the grouping with Guyanese-inspired rhythm and an electric bassline pioneering a smooth change of pace.
Prior to SAINt JHN’s rise in his solo career, he worked as a writer and peer of R&B legend Usher. One of the disappointing aspects of this project is the imbalance between sultry lyricism that proves JHN’s value and dubious cuts that ring like something Lil Pump would say. “Don’t let me breathe, your love won’t be found” (“Selfish”) and “Who the fuck needs trophies, money feed the kids, n***a gimme that/ I’m not a shooter but I promise I know just how that Semi acts” (“Some Nights”) are neatly-packed bars that sheen. Lines like “I think of you like Wi-Fi, and I think of her like cable” (“GOD BLESS THE INTERNET”) and “My favorite porn star is a big titty, bitch is jiggy, sex super litty” (“Traci Lords”), while memorable, are lazy and half-baked. Yes, the intention of these lines are very clear and don’t necessarily need deeper contextual focus. But yes, these lines could vastly be improved with a few minutes of deep thinking and heavy breathing.
SAINt JHN’s potential is limitless. Collection One is, melodically-speaking, arguably the best party trap project in 2018 – and perhaps in the past several years. His singing voice is distinguishable enough to be on the radio. His cadence, timing and rhyme schemes can be tightened up but, for the most part, he has the tools to be a future Grammy winner. Experimentation and a larger focus on vocalic choices seems to be the next logical step for JHN, but at this point in his career, he has to weigh his options and decide how badly he really wants to be the freakish god in the “Roses” video.