Raleigh Ritchie’s “Andy” is the perfect diamond in the rough for the chaotic year that is 2020. Its dulcet tones will help assuage any anxiety within you, reaching out in a new way with each song.
Leaping back to 2016, Jacob Anderson, under the stage name Raleigh Ritchie, leaped into the world of British rap and R&B with his debut album, “You’re a Man Now, Boy.” The album powerfully depicted the pain that Ritchie experienced as he grew older, intertwined with a few other songs of love and loss. Unique instrumentals carried each song, smoothly blended with Ritchie’s singing or rapping. “You’re a Man Now, Boy” was truly euphoric.
“You’re a Man Now, Boy” holds a special place in my heart, as it brought me a great deal of comfort at a point in my life where I needed to have someone sympathize with me, to show me they’ve felt the same. That’s exactly what I got with “You’re a Man Now, Boy.” Needless to say, I have been heavily anticipating a second album.
Returning to the present, the wait is finally over after the drop of Ritchie’s sophomore album, “Andy,” which I will unabashedly say is the sequel it needed to be.
To begin, Ritchie had previously communicated that “Andy” would be a discussion of the anxiety he has faced throughout his life, and that was no lie. A majority of the tracks cover very specific aspects of his anxiety, at times tackling some heavy subjects, which provides a lot for the audience to relate to lyrically.
This relatability is a major strength of “Andy,”and with more than just the issues, Ritchie’s use of language too. For example, the few references to pop culture and his appropriate use of modern lingo is all very natural. Many artists, especially the larger ones, attempt to throw some slang in their music to achieve relatability with their listeners. However, it always comes across as forced, and it only serves to make them seem out of touch. Unlike this crowd, slang comes instinctively to Ritchie, which creates a much more personal atmosphere for the whole record, and establishes a deeper connection between him and the listener.
Not to compare “Andy” too heavily with Ritchie’s previous work, but a lot of what makes “Andy” great are the improvements made in this album’s construction. While I love “You’re a Man Now, Boy,” I often found myself switching to different music once I got far enough into the LP. The later tracks lacked the unique instrumentals and other aspects that made the earlier tracks so great. With “Andy” containing just 12 songs, as opposed to its predecessor’s 18, I no longer have that complaint. Each track on “Andy” blends some form of modern hip hop instrumentation with the sound of powerful string instruments and occasionally an additional brass section, supplementing Ritchie’s voice in the most beautiful way. I couldn’t imagine a better application.
Speaking of Ritchie’s vocal performance, it’s worth noting that both his singing and rapping have gone from great to greater in the years between the two albums. He clearly is not afraid to flex this fact, as all throughout “Andy” Ritchie hand-delivers goosebumps with his honeyed voice.
As previously mentioned, “Andy” is a much shorter album than the one before it. While I believe this to be a mostly positive thing, there is a slight Icarus effect and some parts of the album seem a bit too cut down. Some of the songs don’t necessarily tell the story that they should as the verses are shrunk incredibly to allow the chorus to dominate. This is the case for “Squares,” which dedicates itself to repeating the same line 27 times for around half the song. A few other tracks feel more like interludes than actual songs due to their brevity.
When viewed as a whole, “Andy” avoids the sophomore slump by great margins, but not without some fault. The messages sent are vulnerable. Ritchie humanizes himself in a way so comforting and endearing that despite the negative subject matter, it’s music that makes me happy. “Andy” is a comfort, and I look forward to Ritchie’s inevitable third album, which hopefully will form a happy medium between the previous two.