When André 3000 fans learned that he was dropping an album for the first time in 17 years, they were excited, to say the least. The surprise album was announced on the artist’s Instagram on Nov. 14. Many missed the Outkast rapper’s funky verses and unique cadence, and expected the same sound to be coming from their speakers on Friday when they tuned in.
But André had planned something very different.
New Blue Sun, André 3000’s first-ever solo album, dropped Friday at midnight on popular streaming platforms. The album only has eight songs but runs for a total of one hour and 27 minutes. The last song on the album titled “Dreams Once Buried Beneath The Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens,” is also the longest at 17 minutes and 11 seconds.
The most surprising thing about New Blue Sun is that it is an entirely instrumental album. All of the album’s songs have long, sentence-like titles, seemingly as an attempt to clue the listener into, well, what they’re listening to. The album cover is a photograph of André Lauren Benjamin crouched with a wind instrument resembling a flute, hinting at the content of the album. The first song on the album, “I swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time” saved listeners any confusion or anticipation for a hidden verse somewhere.
In an interview with NPR, André 3000 explained some of the methods behind his album, and why he chose to make it in the first place. He said, “When you’re hearing a flute player or saxophonist, you’re actually hearing the wind of that human. You hear it more in wood because I think sometimes the metal may color it more. But it’s something about the wood and the human voice. It’s closest to the human voice. I think I was really attracted to that.”
New Blue Sun is of course experimental, but also has a very peaceful, meditational tone. With the help of producer Carlos Gabriel Niño, Benjamin not only plays the flute but uses nature sounds, woodwind chimes and synthetic effects.
Like with almost every album, New Blue Sun has mixed reviews. Chris Richards, The Washington Post’s pop music critic wrote in a review, “This new André 3000 album is no joke. It’s not some wellness-jazz whim or grand renunciation of hip-hop, either. Yes, it’s the first album that the co-founder of OutKast has released in nearly two decades, and yes, it’s an entirely wordless recording where, instead of rhyming opulently, André 3000 has chosen to exhale his melodic ideas through the valves and circuits of a digital flute. No, it’s not a masterpiece. But yes, it’s quite lovely. Above all, it’s sincere.”.
Tacuma Roeback, the managing editor at The Chicago Defender said, “But to be honest with you, I am still processing this record. I cannot tell you whether Andre 3000 has mastered this instrument. I also cannot determine whether it holds up to other ambient, New Age jazz records of today or from the past. Nor do I want to compare it to anything.”
However, the general public seems to be receptive to the experimental album, and some producers have already started to sample the instrumental songs and use them for beats. Fans on X, formerly known as Twitter, called it “refreshing,” “peaceful” and “interesting.”
Though unexpected, the album has been generating a lot of traction, receiving three million Spotify streams after 24 hours of being released. Needless to say, a lot more reviews and opinions will be coming soon.