“Mentally I’m Somewhere Else” from Smilez

Ultra-colorful melodies marry grooves the size of small tidal waves. Keys studded with texture straddle an unspoken beat as powerfully emotional as any strand of lyrics ever could be. Vocals become one with vibrant harmonies without ever losing their artistic license.

Designed for the slow jam lover but playable most anywhere a good melody would make sense, “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else” from Smilez is the pop-rapper’s leanest and meanest track so far. While there are a lot of angles from which you can break this single down, there’s scarcely a moment in its running time where we feel pulled in multiple directions by the sonic and lyrical narratives. Smilez is on fire from behind the microphone in “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else,” but though I’ve come to expect a lot out of his singing at this juncture of his career, I didn’t think he was going to unleash the well-rounded juggernaut he ultimately did here. The arrangement brings out a lot of unique qualities in his skillset I hadn’t noticed before, which is always the optimal result of any creative turning point in the studio, indie or otherwise.

As I previously noted, I fell in love with Smilez’s collective discography because of his heartfelt approach to any given vocal, but I don’t know that any of his past serenading (or rapping, for that matter) sounded even half as crisp and clean as it does in this instance. He’s got such a humble, almost vulnerable sensibility to his execution here, and though this comes in strong contrast to the swaggering piano backdrop he’s utilizing, I dig the subtle discord just the same.

The mixing is super tight from the jump, emphasizing agility over brawn (which is something I would love to see some of his contemporaries try adopting for themselves in the future). It goes without saying that “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else” is the most balladic song in Smilez’s catalog of releases up until now, but because of the features that are included in its aesthetical underpinnings, I wouldn’t say it’s purely introspection-focused at all. This is a heart-pounding emo rap piece tailor-made for an indie pop audience, and that alone makes it more than a unique acquisition this summer.

I had some pretty big expectations coming into my review of “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else,” but I’m very happy to say that it lives up to all of them. Smilez has demonstrated a lot of artistic dexterity in his last few releases, but before his latest venture into the recording booth, I don’t know that I had realized just how deep an experimentalist he can be when put in the right scenario to act as one. He has an impeccable capacity for creativity that is demanded by the millennial generation’s taste for the unknown, and in songs like “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else,” he utilizes his talents better than any of his mainstream rivals would. There’s still a lot of room for continued growth on his part, but right now, Smilez is making all the right moves in-studio and out on the road.

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