Van Hunt – What Were You Hoping For?

written by: October 18, 2011
Van Hunt - What Were You Hoping For? Release Date: September 27, 2011


For a 41-year-old R&B musician, Van Hunt is pretty remarkable. In a day when people consider 32-year-old Usher to be a grandpa, it must be difficult to find the courage to put out any music at all. It’s a quite brilliant approach to take if musicians wish to pay their bills.

Hunt uses a multitude of musical tactics to tell his story. A heavily distorted guitar in his background always seems to paint the right picture for whatever angle he chooses. It’s also rare for audiences to hear a legitimate drum kit on audio pieces from an R&B vocalist. Many choose synthetic beats as the scene-setter for their work, but Hunt remains organic with his percussion. It sounds right for him, oddly enough. It’s a neat effect to hear original beats against his vocals because it goes as rock ‘n’ roll as an R&B song can go.

Jams such as “North Hollywood,” “What Were You Hoping For?” and “Moving Targets” will have people pressing repeat. Although each works cleverly in its own way, their mixing work is all something new. They’re harmless in the way that they create something of their own, but also have a white-light quality that are difficult to find an argument against. They’re just good.

Although it doesn’t start well, the album soon turns to greatness. Let it be known that choosing to begin the album with the thrasher “Watching You Go Crazy Is Driving Me Insane” might not have been the best idea. Once that was out of the way, though, real stuff begins to happen.

What’s easily recognized is how this dude’s take on absurdism is one of a kind. “Plum” falls on the halfway point in the lineup and is a psychedelic trip after the second chorus. When listeners get past the bulk of the song, they’ll hear an audio-collage of quotes spoken by different voices (this also happens later in “What Were You Hoping For?”). The track leads into an explosive finish that’s all too experimental for the ears to handle at his point, but the risk is at least admirable.

After this is “Falls (Violet),” which is a charming track unlike the rest. The slow guitar sounds very southern as it chimes, “Give them all they want/And all they want is more/Read between the lines and you miss the point.”

His tunes are legitimized not only by his crazy-spectacular musicianship, but also by his exciting lyricism. “Moving Targets” takes the listeners through a difficult but fascinating timeline of metaphors: “Fraction but not broken/Still out in the open,” “Wounded but not through yet/Still determined not to lose yet.”

It’s like Lenny Kravitz had a mid-life crisis and suddenly decided to switch genres, but he didn’t ultimately decide on a genre; he just made music.

What’s funny is that if Kravitz had indeed gone crazy and made this kind of music, people would’ve laughed at it. Somehow Hunt gets away with this style of art.

Even today, it’s hard to find a musician who produces good music and has both the edge of someone who’s been around the block once already and the freshness of a certain relation to contemporary music. Hunt is almost a veteran of R&B, but he still gets the big picture and what he needs to do to stay afloat in today’s make-it-or-break-it music scene. This fearless approach will ultimately bring him gold, even if it’s measured in personal accomplishment. It doesn’t matter much either way because his work here is definitely worth some pride.

Van Hunt – What Were You Hoping For? tracklist:

  1. “North Hollywood”
  2. “Watching You Go Crazy Is Driving Me Insane”
  3. “Designer Jeans”
  4. “Plum”
  5. “Falls (Violet)”
  6. “Moving Target”
  7. “Eyes Like Pearls”
  8. “A Time Machine Is My New Girlfriend”
  9. “What Were You Hoping For?”
  10. “Cross Dresser”
  11. “It’s a Mysterious Hustle”