Immaculate vibes. In the simplest terms, that’s what PJ Morton’s new album Watch the Sun brings us. Throughout his career, PJ Morton has taken influence from his musical upbringing and brought some free-spirited albums, along with more “serious” projects. No matter the direction taken, PJ offers a lot of delightful tracks with depth, vibrancy, and captivating melodies. It makes each album a marvel to listen to, even when it lacks consistency in quality, albeit never in tone. Watch the Sun brings a beautiful cadence with its summery atmospheric textures, whimsical melodies, and vibrant production, masking some of the blemishes, and particularly, some features don’t bring an A-game, focusing more on tonal fit, which weaves some dull lyrics.
Watch the Sun evokes many genres: R&B, soul, gospel, hip-hop, etc. though it never feels bloated, contrived, and cornered into offsetting the tangential flow it’s taking us on. The blending never falters, giving us these elegant shifts in styles with keen transitions that don’t make us double-take as it sometimes transitions between contrasting styles. There’s “Please Don’t Walk Away” with soulful-jazzy production that contrasts what follows, the eponymous track, which incorporates reggae drum beats within soulful island strings. It never skips a beat. It continues to show as such, with PJ Morton’s eloquent construction, like closing on a three-track string where sandwiched between two soulful-gospel tracks is a remarkable summer R&B hitter with El Debarge.
The consistency can shadow some of the emotionally resonant songwriting at first before fully immersing in its blend. Watch the Sun is not something that hits you right away; it sweeps you up your feet with its production, a constant vibe, and later, it keeps you floating with some remarkable performances. PJ Morton sings about different topics centered on an emotional core, under surface layers reflecting niche subtexts within his beliefs and sadness. It gets boasted by the production, which juxtaposes lyrical tone with a vibrant-summer aesthetic, which subtly flows through its veins. It is telling us the sunlight never breaks, despite these down moments; what culminates is a reminder that PJ is on a fantastic high, artistically, throughout.
PJ Morton rides strong with his lyricism, but it isn’t as consistent with all his features. For the most part, some are coming with verses written to only capture the fit of the content and atmosphere without delving deeper into style. With Nas on “Be Like Water,” he brings some fun rhythmic linguistics, like when he raps: “Just a figment of imagination/A wickedness I’m not relatin’, situation, lookin’ at it lately/With the wisdom of a man who made it,” but it lacks some emotional gravitas, especially compared to what PJ and Stevie Wonder bring. It’s the same with Wale on the subsequent track. Wale brings more emotion, but the bars aren’t that interesting and too direct.
However, it isn’t exclusive to both rappers, as long-time collaborator JoJo comes across like any standard, non-creative singer. She harmonizes well with PJ, but it can’t keep the interest afloat. That isn’t to say the track is poor, but having a more profound singer would make it more potent with its theme of mental self-care. It’s effective as is and masked within the amplified atmosphere of the production, but it isn’t as powerful as “Still Believe” or “On My Way.” In a way, it adds the low-scale title when speaking in a range of quality, or simply put, at worst, the track is just fine, and at best, they are fantastic. But ultimately, it’s a vibe. It’s an album that you can have on loop without subverting your focus.