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cool tapes volume 3 | album review

Jaden Smith has reintroduced himself with his latest release. His album CTV3: Cool Tape Volume 3 sits amongst the Cool Tape mixtape series that began in 2012 but provides fans with a full feature this time around. Returning with a bright new aesthetic and dreamy soundscape, each goes hand in hand with one another on this album, introducing us to the Trippy Summer era.

In the lead-up to the album announcement, he gave us two singles; ‘Cabin Fever’ and ‘Rainbow Bap’, the first being on frequent rotation for fans and radio stations, alluding to what was to come. Upon the release, it’s clear that Jaden is a hopeless romantic, something he’s letting be known in full force. He’s confessed that the album is a prequel to SYRE but nonetheless it feels like a natural progression from his 2019 release ERYS. The opening track ‘Circa 2015’ makes it known, “it's kind of taking place when I'm like 15, going all the way up until 17,” something he tells Zane Lowe in their most recent interview.

He takes us through the seventeen track venture with ease and lets us in on some of his best work yet. Framing his melodic rap verses with electric guitars is something he does effortlessly, clear on tracks such as ‘Everything’ and ‘Deep End’.

Setting a scene with his lyrics, on ‘Deep End’ he sings In my dreams we're taking flight, oh / Zero gravity, wait 'til the lights get low / You're in my room but we're in space though / There's a lake on the moon. He even lets out his softer side with lyrics like I need you right now/ if I can’t love you I guess I’ll just drown on ‘Photograph’. Alongside the production by BURNS, they’ve been able to create the ‘end of summer’ album that encapsulates the sunsets and late nights that Jaden loves so much.

Jaden has run wild with his production in the past but his sound is more cohesive than ever. Influenced by The Beatles, most notably the St, Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era, he doesn’t saturate the album with references but pays homage to his “favourite album of all time” subtly.

It’s still very clearly his own lyricism and themes that set the scene. It isn’t an album that tries to boast or prove that he can make a hit but instead consistently delivers. More self-aware than ever, he reminds us that there’s a reason the summer we wanted isn’t the one that we got; He sings If the kids in charge try to burn our forest/ I'll be outside congress throwing rocks on ‘Boys and Girls’, a fitting closing track for a 2020 album.

His past projects have shown that he is of considerable talent but Cool Tape Volume 3 proves it once and for all. This album sits him comfortably with his peers and frequent collaborators, defining him as an artist of the moment and of his generation. It reminisces on life pre-pandemic and lets us imagine one that will exist afterwards. One thing is being made clear; he’s yearning for an endless summer, for the one we didn’t get.

A few of my favourites: Circa 2015, Everything, Bad Connection, Cabin Fever, Photograph, Deep End

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