Just three weeks ago, as is the norm for many a modern star, Travis Scott fired up the Instagram app and announced the start of a new era. “UTOPIA IS WHEREVER YOU ARE,” the message began, on a fake parchment background. “TRAVIS SCOTT, LIVE STREAM TRANSMITTING FROM EGYPT, THE PYRAMIDS.” It was followed by today’s date (July 28) and coordinates that turned out to be Giza. To the disappointment of Scott’s avid fans – including this one who joked he’d sold his house to attend – the pyramid performance was cancelled two days out from the show, with Live Nation Middle East citing “complex production issues” as a cause for concern.
Though the show never materialised, the location alone indicated an album of massive scope and ambition, confirmed when Scott dropped the sprawling, 19-track Utopia this morning. The record takes us on a whistlestop tour of Scott’s creative mind, with numerous guest spots from the likes of Beyoncé, SZA, Drake, The Weeknd, James Blake, Bad Bunny, Sampha, Kid Cudi, Bon Iver, Future, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Playboi Carti and Sheck Wes, plus production from Blake, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and Metro Boomin. Understandably, you may ask where Travis Scott fits into all of this – it is his album after all. But the true success of Utopia is that, despite the huge amounts of star power, the record never feels collaborative, and Scott’s voice always remains firmly above the fray.
Despite its lengthy 75-minute runtime, Utopia isn’t bogged down in ideas of self-seriousness or pretention. Scott talks his shit on the intoxicating “Modern Jam” (produced by yet another star, Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo), waxing lyrical on Socrates and how he likes a “bi girl on a bi-cycle”. On the distorted and woozy “Telekinesis” SZA sings about diamonds, parties and how she “did some shit in Berlin” (same girl), while “Circus Maximus” is a direct homage to West’s “Black Skinhead” ten years after Yeezus’ release. Elsewhere, the Drake-assisted “Meltdown” strives to replicate the success of their global hit “Sicko Mode”, but it’s actually “Topia Twins” that’s the true successor to that Astroworld track. Featuring a standout verse from 21 Savage, the song has all the trappings of a Travis Scott classic: indiscriminate screams, pied-piper production, and an undeniable, earworm hook. That trip to Egypt may have been cancelled, but our jet-skis to Utopia have just arrived.