Album Review: Jai Paul – The Bandcamp Collection

Jai Paul has developed into such a complex musical enigma that people have begun to question his actual intentions as an artist and whether or not he ever plans on releasing an actual full-length project.

Though his label — the subtle powerhouse that is XL Recordings — hasn’t made any official announcements or even really hinted at the prospect of a Jai Paul album anytime soon, April 14 proved to be a day equally intriguing and perplexing for fans of the elusive British singer.

It was on that day a Bandcamp user uploaded 16 untitled tracks by Jai which at first appeared to be some kind of advance copy of his debut album. The following day, however, Jai broke his silence and tweeted that the series of demos were illegally uploaded by someone which ultimately led to the songs being taken down from the site almost without a trace.

[one_half_last]Dozens of conspiracy theories have risen out of the strange circumstances surrounding the Bandcamp collection’s release with some putting the blame on record label staff members while others point the finger directly at Jai, claiming he was responsible for the leak in an effort to attract attention to himself.[/one_half_last]

Though it’s unrealistic to assume someone will actually get to the bottom of the illegal upload mystery, the fact that a body of work was released that day and Jai Paul’s name is still attached to it is something that remains real.

And with that, welcome to the review portion of this story.

The collection begins with a brief 25-second electronic intro beat then dips right into “Track 2,” (aka “St8 Outta Mumbai”) a song with a playfully vibrant ‘80s vibe and echoes of early Duran Duran all beautifully strung together by Jai’s haunting falsetto that conveys an inexplicable paradox of pain and joy at the exact same time.

On “Track 7,” Jai Paul evokes the American one-hit wonder Jennifer Paige and her 1998 pop single “Crush” which is given a funk-infused update complete with elegantly choppy electronic production and a much sleeker, sexier tone than the bouncy radio-friendly original recorded by Paige.

Though most of the collection is comprised of recently unheard material, “Jasmine” and the heavily-sampled “BTSTU” are two singles fans of Jai are very familiar with and both appear among this eclectic blend of songs and only add to its album-like allure.

There is no real weak point in this collection as far as the music itself is concerned but the only downfall is in the length of the songs themselves. With the exception of “Jasmine,” none of the songs go over the four-minute mark and many are stuck in the three-minute range leaving you wanting more even if there’s nothing more to offer.

This is where Jai Paul’s unofficial Bandcamp song collection becomes a sad reality. It shows the promise and already polished and perfected sound of a singer and producer who seems by all means ready to take on a fully realized project if he so chooses but therein lies the whole problem.

If Jai’s sound has already reached a pinnacle this early on and he has chosen not to release any official projects yet then is a real album even in his bigger picture? One can only hope because as this collection of songs proves, Jai Paul remains a hidden gem lurking in the shadows of an industry already planning his coming-out party whether he wants it or not.

Get at me on Twitter @PatCwiklinski.

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