Yugraj’s 3rd album gets the Chakdey.com review treatment!
Yugraj’s Rangla Hassa was a promising debut album that was anchored by an irresistible title track, but it didn’t foreshadow what was to come. The vocalist’s sophomore record Chan Warga Chamkara, which easily superseded Rangla Hassa, saw him join forces with Bhangra heavyweights Tigerstyle for a 14 track tour de force that channeled the spirit of Kuljit Bhamra’s early productions. Similar to Bhamra’s work on Premi’s Chhamak Jehi Mutiar and Heera’s Jagh Wala Mela, the Burmys provided their vocalist with a modern musical canvas that was firmly rooted in tradition. The acceptable dose of modernity fused with folk purity made Chan Warga Chamkara a timeless listen. In fact, Chan Warga Chamkara is an essential listen, offering a consistent sound, first-rate vocals and excellent songs, including gems like the title track and “Sassi” from the pen of Devinder Khannewala.
Half a decade later, Yugraj reteams with Tigerstyle for a different kind of outing on Back in the Game. Abolishing the strictly folk soundscape of Chan Warga Chamkara, Back in the Game is mostly a continuation of Tigerstyle’s Digi-Bhang sound, but with a severe intellectual decline in lyrical content. With references to Lady Gaga, who is honored with a memorable hekh, Justin Bieber and Rihanna on “English Thumke” and a vacuous Lil Jon sampling remix of “Gora Rang,” which would have been dated back in 2007, Back in the Game is a time-sensitive album that pales in comparison to Yugraj’s previous effort. Although the record might be an arduous listen for Chan Warga Chamkara fans, Yugraj’s passionate singing and Tigerstyle’s lush arrangements salvage the album from pop mediocrity.
Tigerstyle’s contributions to the album are vital because they breathe life into soulless lyrics that are, at times, cringe-worthy. Tracks like “Desi Pure” and the abovementioned “English Thumke” are imbued with a questionable sense of humor, but they are ridiculously catchy. “English Thumke” reappears on the album as a desi refix provided by Hans Mann. Punctuating the track with algozey, sarangi, and giddha sounds, Maan’s version makes for some quality giddha fodder as the lyrics embody the cheesiness that occasionally plagues those trademark bolis.
Whilst subpar lyrics are pervasive throughout the album, there are a few quality lyrical moments. The social commentary of “Marda Punjab” and folklore of “Sassi” is nonexistent, but the aggressive “Velli Yaar” and “Ik Passa” inject a healthy dose of machismo into the album. And “Sohni,” easily the best song on the record, is another lucid jewel from the mind of Devinder Khannewala. Featuring a lack of traditional instrumentation, Tigerstyle’s club-friendly production and Yugraj’s affectionate vocals are a delight.
Listeners who are familiar with Chan Warga Chamkara might complain about the reduction of desiness, which includes the noticeable absence of the mandolin, and the obvious lyrical regression on Back in the Game, but the record is one of those frustrating listens that eventually grows on you. As amateurish as some of the lyrics are, Yugraj’s versatile vocals and Tigerstyle’s sumptuous beats, which feature an awe-inspiring merging of the tumbi into the IDM aesthetic, make for a decent album that is worth checking out.
We give the album 3.5 out of 5
Back in the Game is out now on BNW Recordz. Click here to buy.