By Emily Duff
The debut album from Dublin artist, James Shannon, has finally dropped. Having released only three singles prior, the album has been much anticipated and allows his listeners to get a fuller understanding of Shannon’s range.
As a rapper, Shannon blends traditional hip-hop styles with more modern (kind of 1980s, kind of 2010s) electronic synth beats. And as a new artist for me, and my love for rap music, I was very excited to see what the album was like - and it did not disappoint.
Shannon uses a wide variety of inspiration which encompass multiple genres and styles. This allows him to express through multiple ranges about “what he feels and sees around him to share his message with a wider audience”. Having been making music since an early age, Shannon has expectedly taken on a wide range of influences during this time. With stylistic and lyrical inspiration from the modern work of Frank Ocean to A$AP Rocky to Miles Carter. Due to this array of artists combined with own his youth perspective makes his music incomparable to most.
In terms of the instrumentation in the album, it opens with a very electronic-style intro. Through this immediate unexpected rhythm, ‘The Night Before The Morning After’ is quickly rather playful and fun to listen to. Overall, the album takes on an indie hip-hop amalgamation with its use of both spoken word and fast rapping combined with synth and often a use of complimentary accompanying vocals in the background of most of the tunes that allow the mood to be amplified throughout. Although this combination of synth and rap is somewhat unusual, Shannon pulls it off - making it seem effortless and natural. However, the jarringness of the two genres instantly heard in the into, ‘Just Imagine’, that creates an intensity to the album making it not one for a relaxing night but rather a party album.
Something to be noted when listening to Shannon’s debut album is the meaning and attitude behind each song alongside the intense and passionate energy which supports those lyrics. With hopes of spreading his music to a universal audience, he aims to “make an impact in doing so”. It is expected from James Shannon that deeper, more meaningful and hard-hitting perspectives on philosophical ideas will be apparent through his lyrics. Shannon uses observations about the world he sees to be able to give a unique and personal outlook.
An example of this from ‘The Night Before the Morning After’ is the track ‘Everyone Is Changing’. It opens with, and continues to feature throughout, a monotonous repetition of the lyric, “I look around and I see nothing is the same, Everything has changed”. As each of the songs in the album insinuate this idea of lost time, ‘Everyone Is Changing’ is the clearest cut. As I am experiencing this phase of my life in which I’m no longer part of my sixth form but have not yet begun at my university, this track seems a rather poignant idea to me. It ranges from the feeling of being lost with what to do with yourself but also the impact on the relationships you have built with people which are either dissolving evolving. Those people that you were never close with but always spoke to in the corridor have faded from your life and even the relationships with those you spent every second with are about to be tested as we split off to different cities. While it is difficult, and hormones never help, the experience I am going through is only one of the first people experience in life, its the easing in process. I think this track encapsulates that idea, a one that most people have gone through, of times being confusing but not completely dire. Especially as we are in the stage of this pandemic in which the phrase ‘a new normal’ can be heard every 15 minutes.
Moreover, in ‘Adapting’ Shannon opens with the use of spoken word of the lyrics, “those memories, those times and those moments that at that specific time feel bliss”, which alludes to the ideas of time moving quickly and being uncontrollable. This highlights a common philosophical debate between living for the opportunities handed to you and enjoying every moment you get given or being constantly prepared in order to make the most out of possibly fewer but more anticipated moments. Even the album title, ‘The Night Before the Morning After’, implies this idea both of a perspective and contextual shift - something which we all experience. This can range from an obstinate emotional change to smaller events like waking up after a rowdy night out in which substances altered your perspective to the idea of a mid-life crisis and being lost as age continues to impact our understanding of the world.
To conclude, James Shannon’s The Morning After the Night Before’ is an acquired taste in terms of instrumentation but relatable in all aspects of its lyricism. The album conveys an emotional theme throughout but maintains an upbeat and, sometimes, surface level of energy throughout. At the early stages of his career, Shannon is one to watch.
If you'd like to find out more about James Shannon and his debut album, his social links are down below: