Published May 29, 2020Have you ever found yourself in the changing room of an H&M, surrounded by dozens of tissue-thin fast fashion pieces — all conveniently priced at $12.99 and curiously donning the same handful of motifs-du jour?
If cowboys are in vogue this season, Diplo is cashing in with his latest solo foray, Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley Chapter 1: Snake Oil. Much like the soundtrack of the aforementioned clothing retailer, the producer has nailed down the precise formula for sending his consumption-obsessed listeners into a frenzied, purchase-hungry trance. Through a roster of carefully curated featured artists, genre-melding beats and queasy Coachella-core hooks, the Snake Oil salesman himself has delivered yet another collection of lowest common denominator radio fodder.
Lead single "Do Si Do" is particularly sinful, as it dispenses anaesthetized "pardner"-speak buzzwords at a mile-a-minute while lending nothing to the ethos except, perhaps, some "show us your ass"-esque sentiment. There is no amount of "Daisy Dukes" and "honky tonk"-ing that could redeem this track's poor imitation of Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)," but that won't stop featured vocalist Blanco Brown from trying. The song's harmonica part is an exercise in failed authenticity and only serves to insult the instrument.
With the exception of the album's "Intro" track, which features nu-country darling Orville Peck's partial spoken-word piece, every single song on this record will make you want to do a Google search on old-timey ways to die.
Diplo's entry into the genre is an unmistakable cash grab — entirely a year or more too late. Artists who excelled at forming the new bastion of country — tastemakers like Mr. Peck, Lil Nas X, Kacey Musgraves, Solange, Leon Bridges and Rhiannon Giddens — ultimately did pave the way for the trendiness of the genre. It was bound to be exploited at some point. But for Diplo to ride in on the trendiness wave, with all of the resources to do justice to his industry pals at hand, and still reduce the opportunity to formulaic aesthetics, is a goddamn travesty.
If you feel comfortable being brainwashed by capitalism, this may be the record for you. Otherwise, you're better off leaving Diplo (and the horse he rode in on) in the dust. (Columbia)