Fresh out of Ohio, singer/songwriter Jack Kays released his debut album MIXED EMOTIONS on January 29, 2020. While this is Kays’ first major release, he is no stranger to the music scene. He has been uploading music for more than four years. Kay is well-known for his fresh take on the rap and hip-hop genre. Throughout his album, each track features a new stripped-down version of your classic rap song. Kay uses his vocals and guitar to encompass this new sound that leaves listeners feeling let in on his personal life. The guitar isn’t Kays’ only source of instrumental talent. He plays an astounding total of nine instruments. Mixed Emotions is a very personal release from Kays as he lets people break down the third wall and see the demons that live in his head.
The first track is titled “TIRED”. Opening the album with this song is a bold statement from Kays. It begins with a spooky intro featuring solely the guitar, that feels like a welcoming rite of passage, transporting the listener inside the mind of Kays. This short guitar intro is soon met with a heavy beat and vocals. The lyrics are made up of haunting words as he sings of “I cannot look in the mirror”, “I got to pop me a pill cause I don’t like the way I feel”, and “I can’t do another year”. Kays lyrics leave very little to interpretation here. Upon first listen Kays resembles popular artist JuiceWRLD. He may even have been inspired by him as an artist. Kays raps his true beliefs and emotions allowing vulnerability through his songs which any listener is able to admire.
Check out “TIRED” here:
The second track on Mixed Emotions is “HRTBRKN”. This song keeps a steady beat except for at the most vulnerable part of the song which leaves a single strand of Kays’ voice. The lyrics to this song encompass the fast fall after a heartbreak. This feeling is something everyone can relate to in the moment you are truly left feeling lost. Kays also discusses the moment when your ex reaches out to you, which let`s be honest happens whether you want it to or not. He allows listeners to feel like they are receiving advice from Kays on how to navigate a very delicate situation. This proves that this piece as a whole continues to direct the listener as a personal outreach.
The next track is titled “F*CKED UP”. This song begins softer to appeal to the sensitivity of the subject matter of this song. The first few seconds feature the strums of an acoustic guitar. Then the beat drops in. As the beat progresses, the more the track sounds like a therapy session, bringing yet another level of personal to the table. Self-destruction is a popular subject throughout this album, especially ringing out on this track. Kays uses lyrics to tell his personal struggle with lines like “Smoking till I cough a lung up”, “Somebody told me to shut up”, and “There’s so many victims of depression”. Lyrics like this prove that he seeks more than just a hit with his songs. He is reaching out to those struggling with mental health as a way of building a community.
The fourth song is “MY HEAD ☹”. This track is extremely short. This provides differentiation in the album. The lyrics tell the story of how time seems to have no balance in the world today. Kays sings of completely removing his head metaphorically of course as an alternative to not drive himself mad with all the faltering opinions and thoughts running through it constantly. The shortness of this track is not meant to lock listeners out of his brain, but to perhaps signify that the topic is a sensitive one, and singing about these issues for too long may clog his thoughts. Regardless of the indirect heaviness behind this track, “MY HEAD ☹” is sure to provide a bridge between the previous and following tracks.
Check out “In My Head ☹” here:
“GIN N JUICE” gives a different vibe from the rest of the album. The accompanying melody houses a guitar strum and snaps that provide an uplifting tune. This is yet again another short track symbolizing that the good times often fly past while the bad times simmer. The lyrics do discuss a struggle with mental health as Kays makes references to hiding his thoughts and feelings from those he loves and keeps them all bottled up. Despite the airy accompanying music, the lyrics cover some heavy demons that live in everyone’s heads.
Check out “GIN N JUICE” here:
The next track is my personal favorite. It is titled “MORBID MIND”. This track leaves behind the heavy syncopated beat featured throughout the album. The instrumentation almost encompasses that of a folk song with brassy undertones. Kays’ voice is also transformed in this track. The focus is of singing and leaving the hip-hop/rap perfection behind providing listeners with a vulnerable sound. “MORBID MIND” shows the diversity that Kays is able to portray through his artistry. With lyrics like “I gave my all”, “I can’t Fall”, and “I can’t go back home till my name is known” shows the fight within Kays to pursue his career.
Check out “MORIBID MIND” here:
The second to last song on MIXED EMOTIONS is “BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE”. This song carries on with the softer musicality heard in “MORBID MIND” The acoustic guitar continues the same authentically strummed melody through the entirety of the song. This adds a softer element to the album showing that you will not hear the same strong beats with a rap tied to them. The previous idea of hiding emotions is challenged in this song. He sings of being lost and how life is spent searching for something we may never find. Kays never clearly defines what the hidden object is, only what the search entails.
Check out “BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE” here:
The last song on this truly diverse album is called “BARELY ALIVE”. Ending the album with a slow song that touches on mental health and loneliness. The acoustic guitar returns as an accompaniment to Kays vocal long notes. The gap between the chorus and verse plays an extension of “ooh’s” that adds to the mystical feeling of being stuck in an unhappy state of mind. This track is sure to make listeners shed a tear which is a difficult emotion to execute through a song. However, the lyrical make-up mixed with the softness of the strumming guitar, Kays makes difficulty seem like second nature.
Listen to MIXED EMOTIONS here.