Jon Batiste is one of the most renowned artists to come out of Louisiana in the last 20 years. Having worked with legends like Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Ed Sheeran, Batiste has made a name for himself as a bandleader, songwriter, and above all, an incredible pianist. His recent album, “World Music Radio”, is a massive, 21-song work spanning several genres and packing in some of the most impressive credits and features on an R&B/pop album in recent years. The radio-format concept of the album (think The Weeknd’s “Dawn FM”) lets the album go places that would otherwise feel nonsensical — the first ten songs on the album reach into genres from Latin urban to jazz and boast features including JID, NewJeans, and Rita Payes. This is a fun exploration of the album’s concept but feels like it misses an opportunity to really delve into each of those genres in a deeper way.
The first half of the album feels almost like a collaborative work with Jon Bellion and, although Bellion’s expert songwriting levels up the songs to a specific style, it does feel a little restricted. “Be Who You Are”, for example, feels thoroughly baked into the Bellion pop template instead of letting JID and NewJeans do what they are known for and bring experimental elements to their genres at the highest level.
The second half of the album, notably with less input from Bellion, has more variety and feels more authentic to Batiste as an artist. It loses the World Radio concept a little, feeling jarring when the radio host returns on “Goodbye, Billy Bob” after 13 tracks of forgetting about it, but otherwise carries more of the creative quality one would expect from a Jon Batiste project.
Aside from the turbulent feeling of the album and the concept that feels like it distracted from the music behind the scenes, the highs are truly incredible and the lows are still pretty great. “Wherever You Are”, for example, is a good song but it just does not stand out alongside the 20 other tracks. “Calling Your Name”, in a similar vein, feels like mediocre pop alongside genuinely emotional and inventive tracks like “Call Now (504–305–8269)” or “Master Power”.
The production across the album is immaculate but sometimes lacks some creative flair. Every single track is perfectly mixed (as one would expect from both Manny Maroquin…