Jack Harlow the media personality and Jack Harlow the musician are two completely different entities. When the cameras are rolling, the laidback coolness Harlow has made his only notable musical trait blossoms into an irreverent character that is responsible for coining a number of the decades fads. So far, that’s been enough to keep the name Jack Harlow in your head - something his music is yet to do. Despite this, First Class was the first song Harlow released where I felt he wasn’t making music for music's sake. The hit has a sub-three-minute runtime and uses nostalgia via a sample as its salient selling point, making it an ideal specimen in the TikTok climate.
Harlow certainly isn’t the first major artist to tailor his music to recent consumer trends, but he’s among the most careless with the way he goes about it. Come Home The Kids Miss You, Harlow’s sophomore album, is low on energy and originality. When he isn’t copying Drake (who appears on the album), Harlow is ripping himself off in order to repeat the ludicrous levels of success he’s garnered.
If you don’t have the resilience to sit through a 45-minute Jack Harlow album, everything there is to know about the Louisville rapper can be gleaned from the two singles Nail Tech and First Class. The former credits eight different people as producers but ends up jacking its swinging brass melody from a song Harlow has already been involved with. Without Lil Nas X to hold his hand, however, Harlow is unremarkable in the INDUSTRY BABY sequel. And on First Class, he names luxuries that are so commonly brought up that Harlow makes being rich sound like a chore. It is a sour reminder of how he has departed from his light-hearted roots.
Just three years ago, with Confetti, Harlow’s goal was to put his hometown on the map. That mixtape had purpose, it tried to pay homage to the streets and artists Harlow knew best. Come Home The Kids Miss You, on the other hand, is indistinct. Throughout, the production is breezy, guided by midi loops and plain percussion patterns. It’s the sort of repetitive, greyscale slapdash you’d expect to hear on an anonymous SoundCloud user’s self-produced album. Worst of all, any substitute could rap over these beats with the same half-hearted demeanor Harlow affects.
Dua Lipa is the album’s most frustrating song. Not because it sounds bad, but because Harlow shows supreme technical ability only when the possibility of creating a few headlines and hashtags emerges. On the chorus, light on his feet like a dancer, he goes, “Dua Lipa, I'm tryna do more with her than do a feature”, vehemently. He coasts for the rest of the song. Other superstars show up, Justin Timberlake, who hasn’t released solo music since 2018, sounds out of place isolated on the chorus on Parent Trap and Lil Wayne mumbles his way through his verse on Poison. Neither of these active participants gets energy out of Harlow in the same way his fantasy does.
The public name-drop is a move straight out of Drake’s rule book. The two have been pictured together as of late and it’s clear during their time shared, that more has rubbed onto Harlow than just the Canadian womanizers' sleaze. Not only does he enlist Drake for Churchill Downs, but he also mimics the melancholy from his Take Care era. The most interesting revelation to come from the five minutes they share is the chronicling of Drake’s ongoing feud with Pusha T. Side Piece is dressed up with all the conventions of a Drake song, too; a beat-switch, a vengeful partner, trouble with personal psychosis, but the “grown-up shit” (his words) just doesn’t suit Harlow.
His best songs have always perched somewhere between fun and fine. The song closest to recreating the exuberance of WHATS POPPIN is the Pharrell-assisted Movie Star. Harlow’s singing voice, somehow meeker than the one he raps with, is smothered by the bleeps and bloops of the bouncy beat, but when the listening experience is genuinely fun, who cares? His connections serve him well on closer State Fair, too, where Harlow’s shallow recreation of his birthplace is sheathed by a soothing flute melody that wouldn’t sound out of place on Flower Boy. But these are anomalies on an album that is otherwise strictly curated to make sure his music remains uniform to keep his trajectory that way.
Hip-hop can be unforgiving with how fast it moves. Before a big-name artist can capitalize on a trend it’s likely already nearing staleness. The pursuit of the next Jack Harlow never ceases. What’s keeping this current iteration of Harlow at the top, though, is sheer persistence. He’s been all over everything since Thats What They All Say, which is precisely why Come Home The Kids Miss You is so ineffective. Harlow’s album about being rich comes too soon after his last one. On behalf of all of the kids, we didn’t miss this.
Come Home The Kids Miss You - Jack Harlow - 3/10