Yes I’m just now getting around to listening to this album. It took me a whole 5 months just to hear about this December release. Even the Kelly Rowland featuring lead single, Mama Told Me, was unknown to me. This seeming obscurity had me worried so I checked for sales reports in hopes that they’d prove that I’m just chronically out of the loop. But it turns out Vicious Lies debuted with just 30k in sales, half as much as Big Boi’s last album, Sir Lucious Left-Foot. Lucious Left-Foot sold something under 200k total, so I think it’s safe to say that this one will sell far less given its lack of promotion. My worry becomes disappointment. But can that disappointment be blamed completely on Def Jam’s utterly dropping the promotional ball? Or did Big Boi give them anything worth promoting in the first place?
That’s my cliffhanger intro, but I don’t have a glorious ending in store dear reader. Most likely, both parties have a sizable portion of the blame in their hands. Def Jam seems to have underpromoted this album, but Big Boi messed up by making an album with no clear direction, maybe leaving his label clueless on how to promote it. Vicious Lies can’t decide if it’s pop, hip-hop, or r&b, and ends up sitting in an unfulfilling middle space.
Some will cite the numerous features (only an intro and one solo song) as a sign of bad quality. But Big Boi’s never really been a solo artist. He’s always had more of a committee approach, and it’s worked well. Both Speakerboxxx and Lucious Left-Foot had guests on most of their songs, and both were good albums. So I’m not against this pattern being continued on Vicious Lies, in fact, my favorite songs here all include guest artists.
My problem is with how the choice of features seemed to lead the song-crafting process instead of vice versa. A lot of music here doesn’t sound like Big Boi music. It’s like it’s ’99 again, and he attempted to make an album to please everyone: half r&b, half pop, with a sprinkle of hip-hop to please the core fans.
Or maybe Big Boi really is interested in a lot of styles of music. And he chose to express all those interests, in extreme fashion, on one album. The wisdom of such a decision might already be suspect, but it’s especially perplexing when the results are this weak. A lot of the songs sound good but they don’t need him, many even suffer from the “sit through the verses to get to the hook” syndrome. This is because his delivery is usually monotone and he barely stays on-topic. The best songs are the ones where Big Boi is easiest to ignore. The best r&b joint here is Raspberries, which he contributed no vocals to! Scar and Mouche (who?!) sing the whole thing and with the beat it all comes together into a funky package. Gossip is the best hip-hop song, Big KRIT and Bun B completely overshadow Big Boi on it. TI and Killer Mike do the same thing on In The A and Thom Pettie, respecitively. It’s a crying shame that Big Boi can’t even make an impact on his own rap songs. I ended up wishing that a lot of these songs on Big Boi’s album didn’t have him at all!
Everything here isn’t bad. But the best songs are good despite Big Boi, not because of him. I would expect as much from the pop songs since Big Boi doesn’t have much experience there. But given his record of hits, r&b and rap should be home runs for him. This is a record where you skim then pick and choose what to buy. It’s unfortunate that Big Boi couldn’t reach more success in the many different directions that he grasped at.