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Wednesday December 8th

Review: Sometimes, Watsky is good enough

<p>Watsky recently performed at Cat's Cradle.&nbsp;</p>
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Watsky recently performed at Cat's Cradle. 

Let’s get this out of the way first: George Watsky is corny as all hell.

His persona is corny, his style is corny, his performing is corny, and his bars, especially, are cornier than Thanksgiving dinner. That’s just a fact. I mean, this is the guy that titled a song “Ninjas in Paris” — check the Kanye and Jay-Z track with the considerably more explicit title for reference — that includes, among other equally questionable bits, the line “as if my Subaru's a wiener getting sexy with your cul-de-sac”. It is abundantly clear that the fella does not take himself too seriously. 

Until, ridiculously enough, he does. Watsky’s latest record, "Complaint", is a Serious Album,™ tackling more personal, difficult topics than he ever has in the past. Within its sub-thirty-minute runtime, "Complaint" touches on abusive relationships, mental health issues, painful breakups and more.

It certainly isn’t a strange move — he is five studio albums into his career after all — but one really has to question: was it a good one? And more to the matter at hand, onstage, would he flounder in his newfound solemnity?

Despite a few detours into grievous gravitas, the answer is a resounding no. Here at Cat’s Cradle, Watsky tries his best to balance his conflicting impulses — and, against all odds, the result isn't half bad.

First, the music: Watsky is backed by a full, impressive live band consisting of openers, feed the biirds, and a couple of session musicians, and the show is infinitely greater for it. Time and time again, his performers manage to turn the questionable into the serviceable with blazing solos, skyward-reaching vocal turns and formidable, hard-rocking grooves.

Sure, it’s nothing revolutionary, but there’s something to be said for the pure pleasure of a perfectly picked guitar or a satisfyingly smacked snare drum. The tunes themselves, a medley of "Complaint" numbers with a smattering of familiar hits for good measure, are pure Watsky: ineptly written, shoddily structured and about as subtle and nuanced as a power chord to the face. But they’re a good time, and on this night, that’s all they really need to be. 

After all, it’s the man himself that everyone is here to see. Any thoughts of suffocating self-seriousness are put to rest as soon as he dashes onstage, beanie’d and sweatshirted and radiating his pale glory. 

Throughout the night, Watsky is as kinetic as his fans’ screams are deafening, leaping around and crowdsurfing like Zack de la Rocha, all while delivering punchlines in his trademark lightning-quick Busta Rhymes-esque flow. 

Let it be known to all that, regardless of credibility, Watsky can spit. It’s no coincidence that the show’s most exciting moments are the ones where he’s hunkered down, dropping bar after bar faster than the ear can follow. His detours into passionate crooning are decidedly less impressive, but they’re always short-lived. Before long, it’s back to the deluge of multisyllabic rhymes.

That’s the night in a nutshell. There’s some questionably indulgent moments, sure — see “Tiny Glowing Screens, Part 2”, an unbelievably overwrought three minutes of unfortunate slam poetry — but they’re always tempered by a bit of good old rap-rock fun, all crunchy guitars and acrobatic rhyming, and thank goodness for that. After all, this isn’t a Kendrick concert. You’re here to see Watsky in his scruffy, melodramatic philosophy-101-esque splendor, and there can be no question that the man delivers. Sometimes, that’s plenty enough.

arts@dailytarheel.com

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