Labrinth was arguably the busiest man in music in 2019. While he was dropping singles leading up to his latest album, Imagination & the Misfit Kid, Labrinth also helped craft “Spirit,” Beyoncé’s original song for the 2019 Lion King remake. He also handled the original score for HBO’s explosive new teen drama, Euphoria. In fact, “All for Us,” one of the songs that Labrinth dropped while teasing Imagination, got a remix from Zendaya, the lead actress on Euphoria. Around two months ago, Labrinth officially released the full Euphoria score, his second release this year following Labrinth, Sia & Diplo Present… LSD, a collaborative album with Sia and Diplo. Yes, Labrinth did all of this in 2019 alone.
Coming seven years after his debut album, Imagination & the Misfit Kid solidifies Labrinth as an artist who is simply unpredictable. He is never afraid to experiment with different sounds and melodic structures because everything is held together by his soulful timbre. Prior to Imagination, LSD, and Euphoria, Labrinth had made a name for himself as emotional balladeer. With breakout hits like “Beneath Your Beautiful” and “Jealous,” Labrinth made it clear that he could dominate as an R&B maestro with a mainstream pop edge. But things went left, in a good way, on Imagination & the Misfit Kid.
On his sophomore studio album, Labrinth blends electronica, R&B, hip-hop, and classical music to create a record that defies the traditional conventions of genre while still feeling completely authentic. There’s a very cinematic feel to Labrinth’s music. He is able to build entire universes through each chord and lyric. The crux of the album is its opening track. “Imagination,” the de facto title track, is a minute-and-a-half long intro that reminds the listener of Labrinth’s playful edge. That childlike gleam shines throughout the record which prevents Imagination from feeling too heavy and serious. Most of Labrinth’s songs are anthemic, so it feels reductive to describe the tracks on Imagination as such. Nevertheless, on numbers like “Something’s Got To Give” and “Where the Wild Things,” Labrinth’s slightly raspy voice soars above layers of meticulously arranged instrumentation. Very few artists can pull off blends of dance music, gospel, hip-hop, and soul, but somehow Labrinth makes it look easy. Every song is sung from a place of innate joy; Labrinth literally sounds ecstatic that he’s making music and that love elevates every song.
The influence of gospel music is also evident on tracks like “All for Us” (review here) and “The Producer.” This comes as no surprise; Labrinth also worked on a track from Kanye West’s JESUS IS KING (review here). Even the more ominous songs, like the Euphoria-inspired “Mount Everest,” still pulsate with an intense energy. Every beat drop is perfectly timed. Labrinth will tease an instrumental break or a beat drop for damn near the entire song, but when it finally hits, the sensation is otherworldly. Labrinth has created something special and admirable with Imagination & the Misfit Kid. This is an album that is able to convey the wonder and magic of childhood through the maturity and wisdom of an adult perspective. Imagination houses some of the most inventive and impressive songs of the year and it is further proof that Labrinth is one of the most important musicians of the decade.
Key Tracks: “The Producer”; “Where the Wild Things”; “Something’s Got To Give”