Before 2016 ended Little Simz decided to sneak out her sophomore album Stillness In Wonderland. I was intrigued by the concept and the art, the comic especially grabbed my interest. So I bought a copy hoping that I would get something to top the highs of A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. Instead I got a mildly disappointing, light on concept album with far too many middling songs.
“LMPD” starts off the album with an idea that comes up throughout. That Simz has somehow failed her people. This opener compared with Persons, is rather bland. While the ideas brought up are interesting, it would have worked better later in the tracklist. Then we get the first interlude, now I have a couple of issues with the interludes (now that I have been spoiled by A Seat at The Table). The actual dialogue is meaningless until the third Cheshire interlude, the narrator is hard to understand and the music featured on the interludes does not differ enough from the actual songs. Then “Her (Interlude)” is a song that could have been more. The ideas presented aren’t fleshed out enough, which is unfortunate. Little Simz is a great storyteller and she let this kind of die on the vine. I would love to know more about the relationship that she is talking about, what would it have looked like if Simz gave up her dreams to be normal?
“Doorways + Trust Issues” is one of my favorite songs on the album, specifically “Doorways.” I love the way she flows on it and black women making songs and references about pronouncing their names correctly may be my favorite thing. The paranoia of “Trust Issues” brings out an interesting side of Simz, she reflects on the isolating effect of becoming a noticeable figure. The other songs that I really liked on this project were “Low Tides" and “No More Wonderland.”
“One In Rotation + Wide Awake” is a song with a lot of vibe. It sounds good and Simz and SiR play over the top of it nicely. For an artist that has made content a pillar of her approach this song is, content wise, nothing. Simz verse amounts to I’ve been down, I worked hard and now I’m up again. There is nothing to sink into. Almost the whole album is like this. The only thing that is given any depth is Simz wondering if she let her people down. With a whole song dedicated to numerous references to civil rights leaders and ancestors. It would have been interesting to see an album that had more of a gestation period and delved into this theme more. Maybe the concept could have changed.
It could have been like Simz, in the first half, is unknowingly in Wonderland and she’s telling us how much she loves it. Nothing bad ever happens, she has everything she wants and then she meets the Cheshire cat. The Cheshire cat somehow reveals that Wonderland was a lie Simz created to escape when she was traumatized by some event. Then the second half is the escape from Wonderland. “LMPD” could move to next “Low Tides” and “No More Wonderland” and then “Doorways” could be the start of the album. Then Songs like “Bad To The Bone” move to the first half. I wrote it out like this using only the tracks on the final album.
1. Doorways + Trust Issues
2. One In Rotation
4. Bad To The Bone
5. Zone 3
6. Picture Perfect
7. Cheshire’s Interlude: Misled
8. King Of Hearts
9. Poison Ivy
12. Low Tides
13. Cheshire’s Interlude: Stay
14. No More Wonderland
Most of my complaints stem from the fact that Simz is one of my favorite rappers. I’m used to better than this. The same year that Simz dropped Stillness she also dropped a seven song tape (Age 101 Drop:X) that had some awesome songs and some failures (“Sea Level”). “Savage (freestyle)” was my favorite thing to bang in 2016, I would put it on repeat in my car. I would listen to it like ten times in a row. I can’t help wondering if Stillness In Wonderland would have been better suited having six months to a year more time, to develop the ideas and polish the songs. The best thing about Stillness is the production, it is fantastic. Every song sounds great. The arrangement, the mixing, it all came together awesome.
My final complaint is that I think Simz needs a foil, none of the features on here ever had the possibility of being better the Simz’s verses. She needs someone that can come through and push her to her limits and then deliver an awesome verse that may be better than hers. Think Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “Control” or Earl Sweatshirt on “Really Doe.”
For the next Little Simz album, I want her to take as long as she wants. She’s put out enough music for a while, take some time (read several years) and flesh out an album. Make it the best possible. So that she doesn’t fall into the trap she set when she said “They drop new songs weaker than my old shit.”
by Addison Garry