I still remember when Lil Nas X’s “INDUSTRY BABY” came out. Before even listening to the song or watching the music video, the very first thing I noticed was that it featured this white Kentucky rapper I had never heard of before. I wondered, why would Lil Nas give a platform to him, among all people?
I then found out that Harlow isn’t exactly a nobody and that he had already had his 15 minutes of fame way ahead of collaborating with Lil Nas, when he released his 2020 hit “WHATS POPPIN,” which helped him gain national notoriety. Surprise, surprise: he also released his debut album Thats What they All Say in the same year.
So my first impression of the Kentucky native wasn’t exactly who he actually appeared to be.
Regardless, he managed to fit flawlessly in “INDUSTRY BABY,” providing that nice balance to Lil Nas X’s rapping style. But his extra 15 minutes of fame didn’t stop there.
Shortly after, he and Lil Nas appeared on Genius’s YouTube channel explaining the lyrics of the song, and 50% of the comment section of that video expressed the viewers’ admiration for Harlow’s personality and supportive attitude towards Lil Nas’s queerness—which has always been reprimanded in the rap industry.
And then, Patrick Cc: shared the video titled “Why Does Everyone Like Jack Harlow?” which tried to answer a question I had been asking myself: why is he so popular?
Little by little, I started seeing Harlow more and more on YouTube and Instagram, especially featured on notorious channels and on the cover of magazines like Rolling Stone.
And that’s when he dropped his first major single since going viral with “INDUSTRY BABY:” “Nail Tech.” Soon after, he announced the release of his second album, Come Home the Kids Miss You, which came out on May 6th, right at the peak of the hype around the rapper.
And all of this started because Lil Nas X gave him an even bigger platform than the one he had already built for himself.
Therefore, looking at this series of events, I expected his album to be as acclaimed as his personality was. But that wasn’t the case.
Though I personally enjoyed the record, critics like Anthony Fantano (aka theneedledrop) and Matthew Strauss from Pitchfork demolished it, especially when pointing out some of Harlow’s most ridiculous lines. I yet have to pay close attention to the lyrics, but judging from other elements like the production and the artists featured on it, I thought it was a pretty solid effort overall.
I particularly appreciated the minimalist production on it, which professional critics instead found boring and repetitive. Even my favorite track, “Churchill Downs” featuring Drake, was trashed by Fantano, who called it a “very flatly-delivered, endless string of passionless one-liners that just gets really old really fast.” Similarly, Strauss called the full-length project one of “the most insipid, vacuous statements in recent pop history.”
Though none of this criticism will make me stop listening to my favorite tracks on the record, it’s hard to ignore all the negative reviews it’s getting. I’m curious to see different perspectives on it if I ever come across any.
But for now, Harlow is still enjoying his prolonged notoriety, and only time will tell how long this will last.
Cover image credits: Ryan Pfluger