VII’s Behind The Curtain: A Review

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If you’re a listener to the podcast, which you should be, you were treated to a preview of Gabriel Townsell’s new album on October 23rd. It was episode 157, just for reference. Check it out below.

Gabriel Townsell is a former Stanford University wrestler who is aiming at the Olympics for 2021. In the podcast, we talked about wrestling, issues with the NCAA and his music. Gabriel Townsell, as it turns out, is just as good of a musician, if not better, as he is at wrestling. Check out his new album on Spotify below.

Behind the Curtain Review

Behind the Curtain is a breath of fresh air in the hip hop community. In a genre of music that’s driven by singles, hooks, and gimmicks, VII brings back in the artist side of musicianship. Often times, albums start out with a bang, being top heavy and losing steam after four songs. Behind the Curtain is obviously meant to be listened to as a whole.

In our interview with VII ahead of the album’s release, he told us that the album can be listened to forward and backwards and have a different story both ways.

The album starts off with “Heartless,” “Lockdown,” and “Reasons,” three down to earth songs that discuss topics such as struggles VII has seen growing up in a poor neighborhood, finding his own examples, and moving on. The album starts out very raw, and emotional with Townsell touching on topics that are very important and meaningful to him.

VII then drops “The Top” which has an incredibly catchy hook that will have you bobbing your head. What’s even more infectious is VII mentioning he and his friend watching soccer and his friend being so hype making the album on Twitter!

The next seven tracks are a beautiful work of catchy hooks hidden behind deep and thoughtful lyrics. VII’s ability to weave storytelling behind melodies that are pleasing to listen to will have you singing them. Perhaps this is just what the artist intends: he has his message hidden cleverly and as you sing it out loud to your friends, helping get his message to more people. VII has a great method of utilizing vitality that’s existed in music for hundreds of years and twists them in a modern take.

Of course, there’s “LOVERBOY iNTERLUDE” which was debuted on the podcast itself!

“Weekend!” changes up the tempo of the song twice at the end, like a hardcore breakdown, something pleasing on the brain you don’t want to end. What’s interesting is going down the album, the songs only get stronger.

“Twenty19” starts out minimal, focusing on the lyrics and message from VII. The song progressively becomes more aggressive, with a giant buildup. The beat becomes harder and harder, with VII’s delivery getting more and more assertive. The song really takes off midway and the track has completely evolved into something new, but similar to the beginning of the song.

VII’s Behind the Curtain Climax

Intended or not, the next three songs are the climax for me on this album. “Twenty19” served as a fantastic primer for this section and it really takes off here.

In the first of the three songs, “Gmfu” is an aggressive beat and VII shows off his chops on delivery. Personally, this is my favorite song on the album. It is incredibly hyped up and full of energy. If you have not listened to the album yet, pause this read and listen to this track immediately.

“PARANOiD” gives us a break from the last tracks aggressiveness and takes off a section to give us a bit of a breather. It’s a minimal track as well with an atmospheric track and flow from VII. Then just over half way, the track brings back the serious tone, opting for just bass, drums and vocals. A simplistic approach that puts emphasis on what matters in this song.

Finally, “21 Hrs” brings in a JayZ-esque beat that gives VII the opportunity to get creative with his words and delivery. The music ebbs and flows, perfectly and makes you feel you’re at the open mic night, discovering a young and talented artist. Then VII delivers possibly the best line of the album.

“My Timmy Turner wishes sittin in a whiskey bottle
Now that’s a swig of the truth”

On paper this line doesn’t look like much. But this is a prime example of lyricism from VII that will take a moment to dissect. The Timmy Turner line is the end of a bar. It starts of nostalgic, reminding you of the cartoons from your childhood. As it continues on, it gets dark, showing a change in perception of the listener to something more sinister. The next bar starts, but it makes you hold on to the last line slightly longer, “Now that’s a swig of the truth,” tidying up the last section and starting off the next. It is pure perfection from VII.

Winding down Behind the Curtain

The final two tracks on the album, “Thru My Eyez” and “Re:Start” are the perfect closing to the album. Coming off the insane rollercoaster from the last three tracks, these two songs are more laid back, setting you up for a soft landing at the album’s end.

The genius lies in the last song. Just as “Re:Start” is ending, it brings you back to a familiar feeling from the start of the album. It loops perfectly with the first track on the album, having Behind the Curtain come full circle.

Behind the Curtain doesn’t have long songs and there are no wasted tracks. VII did a fantastic job of delivering a complete album, something quite uncommon these days, and masters all aspects of putting out new work. It’s original, fresh, and pleasant.

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