The progression and outcome of many an artistic trilogy are well worth examining. The Godfather’s first installment is most memorable. The second film is debatably the best. The final chapter, however, is forgettable in the grand scheme of things. The Cure — a band noted for their “Trilogy” series — follows a similar trend. Pornography (1982) and Disintegration (1989) are unequivocally perfect albums, yet Bloodflowers (2000) — as rounded and contemporary as it presents itself — doesn’t quite match the magnitude of its predecessors.
Thus we arrive at Man on the Moon — a transcendent group of three albums that stand as perhaps the most recognizable triumvirate in this century of music. It’s a story spanning eleven years, one that has been put on pause and likewise revamped throughout Kid Cudi’s rollercoaster discography. Its opening record, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, cannot be argued as anything other than Scott Mescudi’s most popular piece of work. There's a mentally complex, intergalactic journey in there somewhere — one that many listeners felt attuned to, and in some cases, saved by. Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is Cudi’s most complete solo record. For its time, it was fresh and oddly contemporary in a year where so many new sounds were being explored. Throw it on today, and it’ll still sound brand new.
Man on the Moon III: The Chosen is not an attempt at recapturing the sounds that stole hearts and ears years before. It’s also certainly not — despite what notably stuffy music critics may tell you — an attempt at coasting on a long-lost legacy. It is, however, not as good as its aforementioned products. This is a fact. Man on the Moon III: The Chosen fails to reach an impossibly-high bar set years before, but still lands comfortably on a shelf of albums labeled in sharpie as “pretty good, nothing special.”
MOTM3 thrives in its opening moments. Four songs into the album, I was certain that it was going to be a gem — unlike most other projects released this year. After a cosmic introduction, Cudi hops right into action with “Tequila Shots” — an earth-shattering bop that sees the man of the hour glide in and out of a beat that feels as though it was handcrafted for the “second slot” — a common trend from new age rappers. He doesn’t lose momentum on the next couplet of records, as “Another Day” and “She Knows This” exceed as perhaps Cudi’s best work on the album. “Heaven on Earth” is a formidable enough record, and the Pop Smoke/Skepta collaboration is as significant in overall quality as it is in popularity — a surprise to no one, considering that a trio comprised of the UK’s biggest grime artist and two cult heroes clash heads on this one.
This is precisely where MOTM3 begins to slowly, agonizingly taper in quality. It isn’t a wildly noticeable drop in depth — “The Void” and his beautifully composed group effort with Phoebe Bridgers, “Lovin’ Me,” stand out as back-half highlights. In his final fourth of the album, unfortunately, he faceplants just a bit. Trippie Redd’s feature is as stale as the record it exists on — unsurprising when considering Trippie’s recent stint of flops — and “4 da Kidz,” “The Pale Moonlight” and MOTM3’s outro record, “Lord I Know,” all fail to capture an ending that any musical trilogy — especially one this important and hyped up — deserves at any capacity.
Kid Cudi — Mr. Rager — The WZRD — Scott Mescudi. This is an artist who holds an importance on-par with any to our generation. The first edition is nothing short of a modern classic — like a sonic The Big Lebowski, for all intents and purposes. The second edition is Cudi at his best (besides Kids See Ghosts); “Mr. Rager,” “Marijuana,” “Ghost!” and “Erase Me” are shining testaments to what Mescudi can do artistically. Where does the final chapter in Man on the Moon hold importance? It’s his book-end — not in a career sense — but as a conclusion to a colossal tale in his life. It just doesn’t stack up, plain and simple. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. Find your favorite songs and rejoice — for all we know, this isn’t the end of the road for the man on the moon. If these trends are any indication, however, I suppose it’d be in his best interests to have MOTM3 be the end.
Regardless, I’m wildly excited to see where Kid Cudi flies his spaceship next.