Jaden Smith

(ElSevenUK / Creative Commons)

After an intense summer of protests and the COVID-19 pandemic, pop artist Jaden Smith — who goes by his first name — breaks some of the tension with his newest album "CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3." This album is a prequel to his first studio album, "SYRE," where he introduces his main character, Syre, who shares his middle name. 

In CTV3, Jaden recounts Syre’s late teenage years and experiences with his first loves. The album fits into Jaden's discography quite well, as it continues to show his experimental evolution.

Through the album’s songs, Jaden describes the best way for Syre to find love and builds on the world he constructed in “SYRE.” The album's minimalist background instruments create a serene paradise. Jaden’s calm, slightly muffled voice works as a guide through his love-filled world. The album calls back to a more straightforward portrait of love continually being altered by money and drugs. 

Jaden sets the stage with the track "Circa 2015," where he introduces 17-year-old Syre experiencing his first love. Jaden begins to show his experimental chops by starting his pop-rap album with a harp. With the harp, Jaden is trying to drive home that his imagined world is a sacred space, yet bad events can still occur no matter what. His voice and the trumpets that accompany him act as the disturbance in this picturesque place.

What keeps the listener interested in Jaden’s story is the artist’s ability to mix experimental styles so well. He can go from speaking over a minimal piano chord to rapping and singing over a complex set of instruments. His accompaniment arrangement is also elevated by the fact that Jaden knows how to write intricate songs, not just with a melody but lyrically. These skills come together on his track "Rainbow Bop," which highlights his narrative of feeling trapped in a lavish lifestyle and searching for genuine love. 

What puts this album ahead of other pop albums is how each track is so reliant on the others. The stories that each track tells help build the album around a time when Jaden was developing his ideas about love. "In the Hills," for example, enables the listener to slow down from the previous bubblegum pop tracks and be led into the story. Jaden recounts something like a hallucination as each line angelically fades in and out. The slowed-down tempo makes it seem as though he is lost after the excitement of new love. Now, he is looking for the best way to move forward with the relationship. 

This album is filled with love songs, some of which directly reflect the story that Jaden is telling. He also sings the timely love song "Cabin Fever," which he considers a "quarantine love song,” according to Apple Music. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles was another inspiration for Jaden’s newest album. The song’s video features famous Beatles imagery, such as marshmallow pies and kaleidoscopes, and Jaden's car, with a custom paint job from Dudley Edwards, a friend of The Beatles. The upbeat track features the prototypical rock band instruments along with Jaden's distinct voice layering. 

Out of the 17 tracks on CTV, they’re sure to draw in any listener looking for something different in the pop realm. Jaden has a clear direction for this album and successfully delivers music with unique highs and lows. His vulnerability shows how timid young love can be, and his instrumentation demonstrates his knowledge on creating an in-depth experience.