Spoken word is perhaps the most human medium of expression. Everyone has story to tell, a message to share, or an idea to explain. In Cardboard Castles, George Watsky demonstrates his perfection of the art of the spoken word and his ability to pontificate to society through the art as old as culture; storytelling.
He cuts deep, but nothing less should be expected from a spoken word poet turned rapper. He seamlessly weaves a tapestry that covers most every major moral dilemma and social aspect of this generation. Watsky is a force to be reckoned with. He is a rapper, a poet, a lyricist, a musician, a storyteller, and a truth-teller who can draw blood with a witty quip comprised of no more than 10 syllables.
Watsky has a message to share, and he doesn’t waste any time heralding good tidings. “Fireworks” is a thrilling roller-coaster of rhymes with a positive message set to the beat of that endorphin rushing noise—the bang of the firework. “Strong as an Oak” tells the age old story of the poor man’s happiness. Although Watsky may be “hella broke” he still finds good in the bad, or as he puts it, “Everything’s A-O-K, cuz I’m strong as an O-A-K.”
Of course, a rap album wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory anthem of success. “Moral of the Story” is Watsky’s way of telling haters to sit down and his fans to stand up. The moral of Watsky’s story is, “WORK!” The struggle and the ascension are what we all live for, and Watsky knows it. “Ugly Faces” takes a page out of Slim Shady’s book with odd voices and stand-offish lyrics . It’s quirky in its own way, but it is the lowest point of the record.
“Skit #1” is an adorable dialogue between Watsky and an 8-year old boy. It’s eye-opening and invaluable to Watsky’s design. He wants to show us the hard truth and the eyes of a child are often the best lens.
Watsky shows his sense of humor in “Kill a Hipster (feat. Chinaka Hodge).” It’s a story about how the authenticity of a neighborhood is subversively destroyed by an exodus of hipsters. Authenticity is lost when Starbucks rolls in, the skate rinks fall down and covers of famous raps flood cyberspace, according to Watsky. It’s charming, musically riveting, and funny!
“Hey, Asshole (feat. Kate Nash)” is one of the most memorable ballads created. Nash’s bright, yet bitter voice lends itself perfectly to Watsky’s “don’t give a shit” attitude. “All I Need Is One” is a clot on the record. Watsky has moved on from optimism to eye-opening hard hits and this is still apparent, but the previous felt momentum towards a climax seems to suddenly roll off the proverbial cliff.
“Tiny Glowing Screens, Part 1” and “Tiny Glowing Screens, Part 2” are the thematic climax of the album, despite a slight slow Watsky lands his biggest KOs in these candid lyrics. “When the sun burns out, we’ll light the world with tiny glowing screens.” The message is morbid and matter-of-fact. The “Modem Age” is presented as a world where individuals struggle desperately to set themselves apart, but fail to realize how insignificant their actions really are.
“Sloppy Seconds” is a track to blast out your car window. It’s energetic, lively, and real. It tackles the issue of authenticity once again, and how the people Watsky likes are the ones that live in the moment, and live that moment to the fullest. This is authenticity. This is life. But what goes up must come down, and “Dedicated to Christina Li” is a sobering, heart-throbbing piece of poetry that tells a story from Watsky’s high-school days. It’s sad, but beautiful.
In “Skit #2” we hear another dialogue between George and the 8-year old. They discuss the importance of story telling and growing up. Our stories are what build a culture and each individual inside that culture. It’s an art that must be preserved.
“The Legend of Hardhead Ned (feat. Dylan Saunders)” is another humorous track, but is also the purest form of storytelling on the whole album. “Cardboard Castles” cannot be forgotten. It brings the album full circle, setting the penultimate track as a foil to the second track, saying that when life kicks you down you just build your own cardboard castles back up. Finally, “Send in the Sun” brings back the optimism with a steady tempo and the colorful accents of back-up vocals. “Dent In the Moon” ends the story with the final message that pain may bring joy in the end.
Watsky uplifts and invigorates the listener with his truth-filled slap in the face. He shares happiness and teaches listeners not to let themselves regret anything in life. Just build your castle and let people in. That is what life is all about.
Watsky – Cardboard Castles tracklist:
- “Strong as an Oak”
- “Moral of the Story”
- “Ugly Faces”
- “Skit #1
- “Kill a Hipster (feat. Chinaka Hodge)”
- “Hey, Asshole (feat. Kate Nash)”
- “All I Need Is One”
- “Tiny Glowing Screens, Part 1”
- “Tiny Glowing Screens, Part 2”
- “Sloppy Seconds”
- “Dedicated to Christina Li”
- “Skit #2”
- “The Legend of Hardhead Ned (feat. Dylan Saunders)”
- “Cardboard Castles”
- “Send In the Sun”
- “Dent In the Moon”