Arts and Entertainment

Jack Harlow Made Me Blush, It Was Cool!

Jack Harlow’s sophomore album “Come Home The Kids Miss You” is average but entertaining.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Vanessa Huang

Jack Harlow rose to sensation status with his TikTok smash hit “WHAT’S POPPIN” in 2020. The infectious beat accompanied by a Lyrical Lemonade video gave Harlow enough momentum to land a remix of the song with Tory Lanez, DaBaby, and Lil Wayne. After years of producing amateur music videos and high school mixtapes, he found success in the mainstream. Harlow, who proudly hails from Kentucky, continued to build a following by releasing his first studio album, “That’s What They All Say.” It was a bland listen compared to earlier mixtapes, but easy on the ears and entertaining enough to keep his position in the limelight. Jack’s real superstar breakthrough came later in 2021, when he was featured on Lil Nas X’s triumphant banger “INDUSTRY BABY” with a short but outstanding verse. Though he was unfortunately unable to join Lil Nas X in the shower scene, Harlow’s performance on the track generated even more buzz as the internet collectively fell in love with him. He might not be the most talented rapper, but his charm is undeniable. Now, Jack Harlow mixes his charisma with expensive production to make the frat house playlist of the summer with his new sophomore album, “Come Home The Kids Miss You.”

The project opens with “Talk of the Town,” a short reflection on Jack’s new status as an up-and-coming star with a grating Destiny’s Child sample. His attempt at a call-and-response hook here woefully fails, with the sample dominating Harlow’s vocals in the mix. “Young Harleezy” is similarly scattered, but with a fun groove and excellent Snoop Dogg interlude after the quick beat switch. Harlow has a passionate moment separating himself from other white rappers with the line, “This is not Vanilla Ice or Beastie Boys.” The project picks up with the absolute banger “I’d Do Anything To Make You Smile.” This song has everything you want from Jack Harlow: nimble trap production, copious flirting, and some fantastic one-liners. He raps about Kentucky basketball, private jets, and how he wants to “[EXPLETIVE] the earrings offa you.” The earring line is genuinely the highlight of the project. “First Class” keeps the energy up with a glossy Fergie-infused beat and chorus very obviously made for TikTok. The sample is blandly flipped, but in a clever (and Fergalicious) enough way for Harlow to get away with it. “Dua Lipa” is similarly begging for a TikTok trend, though its stale production and basic flow pale in comparison to those of “First Class.”

Harlow continues unremarkably with “Side Piece” and “Movie Star” with Pharrell Williams, a collaboration that was unsurprisingly mediocre, yet somehow disappointing. The Justin Timberlake and Lil Wayne features are similarly nondescript, save for the fantastic autotune in Lil Wayne’s verse on “Poison.” Though other collaborators fall short, “Churchill Downs” is heavily carried by its lengthy Drake verse. Harlow puts in a good effort with some witty one-liners, but the whimsical neo-soul beat is perfectly tailored for Drake’s melodramatic pen game. Drizzy delivers a spectacular feature, with classic Instagram-caption bars about everything from therapy sessions to dominatrices. If anything, “Churchill Downs” feels much more like a Drake song than a Jack Harlow song. This issue of adapting another artist’s sound manifests a few times: the penultimate track “Nail Tech” is exciting, but it feels like Harlow wants to capitalize on the success of “INDUSTRY BABY” with the horn sections. While “First Class” is a catchy modern adaption of a 2000s hit, “Nail Tech” tries too hard to evoke recent nostalgia, coming off as disingenuous. However, “Lil Secret” is a gem among the derivative songs surrounding it, as it sees Harlow try his hand rapping over an R&B groove about a secret girlfriend of his. The subject matter is overdone, but he adds his signature flair with some of his most focused lyrics yet. His delivery is monotone but still personal, especially with the lines, “Spending time with somebody else and I get to wishing that she was you / Any girl can be beautiful, but not any girl can just be in tune.” “Lil Secret” is more fleshed out and mature compared to the other songs on the album; it’s short, but it augments Harlow’s persona instead of using it as a crutch.

Despite a few flashes of wit, “Come Home The Kids Miss You” is generally just okay. In a way, the project’s mediocrity makes perfect sense: Jack Harlow doesn’t write deep poetry or use mind-bending wordplay; he makes fun songs for college parties. His charming demeanor extends into his music: it’s flirty, easy to listen to, and has viral potential. Harlow’s career arc thus far resembles that of Drake but with less versatility. Hopefully, Harlow further explores R&B production and can focus his pen game, as “Lil Secret” is his most promising song yet. But right now, Drake-dom may be the final frontier for Jack Harlow as a lover boy without much substance to offer.