Before Chance the Rapper released his debut album, The Big Day, he had already made music history. His 2016 mixtape, Coloring Book, was the first streaming-only album to chart on the Billboard 200 (it peaked at #8), the same mixtape was the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy. With the exact definitions of “mixtape” and “album” constantly changing as we march further into the streaming era, the labels seem a bit archaic. At the most basic level when an artist delivers a “project” or “mixtape” there is less pressure for the massive success and critical acclaim that is expected to follow an “album.”
For all intents and purposes, The Big Day is Chance’s debut album and fifth overall project (following 10 Day, Acid Rap, Surf, and Coloring Book). The Big Day is a concept of album of sorts with the central theme being Chance’s wedding day. He slightly abandons the gospel influences of Coloring Book and explores an eclectic mixture of house, trap, pop, hip-hop, and a bit of screamo.
While The Big Day is by no means a bad album, there are two main issues with Chance’s debut. Firstly, the album is entirely too long. At 22 songs (19 songs and 3 skits), Chance bites off way more than he can chew. On this sprawling record, he muddies standout tracks like the the gorgeous “Zanies and Fools” with made-for-Tik-Tok meme rap (“Get a Bag”) and sappy and grating love ballads (“Town on the Hill”). The ridiculous length of the album results in a tedious listening experience and the unfortunate opportunity for self-indulgence. For much of The Big Day, Chance exists in the endlessly positive and unironically corny area of his persona. While that attitude works on tracks like “We Go High”; “Eternal”; and “Do You Remember,” it also leads to lyrics like “peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat/Peanut butter jelly with a, peanut butter jelly/Y’all ain’t ready for this jelly, it’ll break y’all back.” Moments like these, where Chance sacrifices quality for the sake of the character he’s created over the past few years, are when The Big Day really disappoints.
Secondly, The Big Day sounds exactly how one would expect a Chance album to sound. While he does deserve credit for the experimentation that exists on the album, the length of the record prevents him from fully committing to that experimentation. On the title track, there’s a lazy attempt to recreate the screamo-influenced bridge on Frank Ocean’s “Biking” and the placement of the Jersey Club/bounce-influenced “Found a Good One” feels haphazard. That being said, Chance also played it too safe on some tracks. For example, Megan Thee Stallion delivers an excellent verse on “Handsome” and the production on the track is great, but the song doesn’t really add anything to the overall story of The Big Day like “We Go High” and “Zanies and Fools.” The Big Day feels like Chance was too afraid to commit to a full concept album so he decided to throw in some half-assed commercial tracks with popular artists to cushion the more interesting songs. It also doesn’t help that the sequencing makes the narrative hard to follow; for such a personal album, Chance’s voice should close the record, not Nicki Minaj’s.
All in all, The Big Day is fine. It’s not exciting or particularly interesting and it doesn’t offer anything new about Chance’s artistry and mission. His flows are as tight as they have always been and his lyricism just errs slightly more on the cheesy side than his previous releases. However, his commitment to collaborating with a slew of artists (literally everyone from Shawn Mendes to Death Cab for Cutie is on this album) to achieve his genre-blending sound should be applauded. It’s obvious Chance cracked under the pressure of the “debut album” label, so let’s hope he relaxes a bit for his next effort.
Key Tracks: “Eternal”; “We Go High”; “Zanies and Fools”; “Big Fish”; “Ballin Flossin”