Can I be honest?
I mean, like, really really honest?
I guess I owe it to you to be honest, right? That's kinda the point of this blog. To listen to comedy and let you know what I liked and what I didn't; to give you my very humble opinion on what may be worth your hard-earned money and what might not.
And so it is with that mindset that I must let you know what I thought of The Extended Play EP, the new project from T.J. Miller.
Just a heads up before we go any further: If you're a friend or relative of Miller's, you might wanna skip this review.
The truth is, I didn't care for this album.
I really, really, really, genuinely, sincerely, and with all of my heart didn't care for this album.
I was looking forward to listening to this album, as I have enjoyed Miller's work in various movies and he made me genuinely laugh during Cloverfield as the guy holding the camera who gets funnier and funnier as the suspense escalates. I wasn't aware that Miller did stand-up and after perusing the press release that accompanied my copy of this project touting his various awards and accolades he's received as a comic, I was excited to give this a listen.
I suppose I just didn't "get" it. When I read that he was one of "10 Comics to Watch" or made a "hot list" of comics to keep an eye on, I just assumed Miller would be performing stand-up on this project. Or...at the very least...comedy.
Instead what I was treated to was over an hour of really bad pseudo-rap music.
Just...just not good at all.
Miller isn't much of a lyricist - even for a rapper - and none of the songs had much in the way of hooks or catchy beats. But, again, maybe I just didn't get it. I'm not sure what he was going for. Was he trying to be bad? Is that where the humor was supposed to be? Or did he buy ProTools and spend a weekend goofing around in his home recording songs he thought were actually good songs?
The project had a real feeling of sincerity in that Miller was actually trying to make songs that might actually sound good but he came up short. That's one of the reasons why acts like The Lonely Island and Jon LaJoie succeed. Their songs sound like actual songs you would hear on the radio. That they also manage to be funny on top of sounding legit is the real coup. And even when, for example, The Lonely Island records songs that are intended to sound cheesy like their Guy #1/Guy #2 songs, it's done with tongue firmly in cheek.
That's not the case with this album. I don't think it's bad on purpose. I think....I think it's just bad.
During the course of the album, Miller makes a lot jokey references to the fact that he's white and he's not good at rapping, but it rings so true it loses all sense of humor. It's almost as if Miller feels he is supposed to say he's not good in order to get a laugh. But, deep down, I believe Miller thinks he's got actual talent as a rapper and songwriter.
I could be way off base but, I'll say it again, if that was his intention, I didn't get it.
There are a series of rap "battles" on the project whose premises are so hacky and formulaic, they never have a chance to rise to the occasion. ("Hey, I know, let's have a rap battle but instead of insulting you, I'll actually say nice things instead! Ha ha ha! And in the next one, how about you be really good at rap and then on my turn, I'll actually be really bad! Ha ha ha ha ha! This is hilarious!")
On another song, Miller performs an-Owl City inspired tune. But...there are no jokes. Nothing funny at all about it. It's just a poorly-written song. If the gag was supposed to be the fact that Miller auto-tuned his voice...well...yea...I'm gonna need more than that. I wonder if maybe Miller doesn't really have ambitions to be a legitimate artist and, after playing this track back for his friends, they laughed at it and he had to play it off with an "Oh yea, I meant it to sound like that, heh heh heh...of course I wasn't being serious! I'll just add a bit of goofy narration at the end to make sure to let people know I wasn't being serious when I recorded this, heh heh heh."
About four songs into the project, I felt myself wishing for Bo Burnham to pop up. Miller tried to be clever with his lyrics but...that's just it. You can feel him trying and he's really trying hard and that's just it. Bo Burnham flows. It's like he can't not speak in cleverly humorous rhymes. He doesn't need to try because he's a natural.
And then it happened. I got my wish.
Bo Burnham actually does appear on the album in two different tracks and it's almost too painful to listen to because he's so good. His appearance only reminded me of how good Miller isn't and it made me wish I was listening to Bo Burnham's album instead. As it is on every other song with a collaborator, Miller plays the part of the "Hey you be a good rapper and I'll pretend like I'm bad" guy and if the gag wasn't old the first time around, I guarantee it will be the fourth, fifth, 10th, 12th, and 33rd time he tries it.
I wish I were exaggerating, but no. There are over 30 songs on this album and if that's not proof of a vanity project by someone who doesn't know how to leave something on the cutting room floor, I don't know what is. Did he leave anything out?
Seriously. The album is over an hour long, and in this case, that's not a good thing. It drags on and on and on and after listening to so many sub-par songs in a row, I found myself in a helluva foul mood. Not really the effect you want your comedy to have on people, methinks.
If Miller does stand-up comedy, I really would be genuinely interested in watching him. I know he can be funny and I still enjoy his work as an actor and I'd be curious to see how he does on stage. I honestly believe he'd be pretty good at it.
But as a rapper/singer/songwriter? I don't know. I couldn't recommend this album to anyone and have a clear conscience about it.
But hey, could I interest you in this Bo Burnham CD instead?