By Izzy Braico
Big Things Coming Soon is the newest work from Normal native Noah Renken-Kapatos, performing under the name Great Value Jesus. The album follows the semi-autobiographical story of coming of age under the hateful watch of a step-father and the difficulties that come with complicated family dynamics, especially for young people still lost in the drift of trying to establish their own identity. The album attempts to capture life in all its vicissitudes, presenting an artistic representation of how the good times mingle with the bad. The full 19-track album, spanning genres from indie rock to lofi hip hop, is set to be released January 6th. For now, we have a few singles to tide us over: “Slacker Song”, “Chillin”, and “Trippy Tiptoe Tango”.
“Slacker Song” opens with one of the more entertaining introductions to a song, and especially to an album, that I have heard in my 20 short years on Earth.
“My name is Noah Renken-Kapatos,” the artist says over the strumming of the bass. “And I don’t suck dick.”
“It’s okay if you do, though. Word to your wives.”
With a punchy melody and a dash of angst, “Slacker Song” introduces us to the protagonist of BTCS, who here takes on the role of the burnout who just can’t seem to straighten out his life, however he might try. And that, I think, is the simple tragedy that makes “Slacker Song” a perfect introduction to this album– the awareness that something is deeply wrong with your life matched with a feeling of being powerless to fix it. This theme carries through the rest of the album as our protagonist navigates complicated emotions and relationships, but in “Slacker Song,” we’re introduced to this idea in a deeply relatable way. This song invites us into the world of our protagonist, asking us to examine the innumerable ways in which we, ourselves, have failed to live up to our potential.
The lyrics are composed of simple language and a largely defeatist attitude, qualities which give the song somewhat of an adolescent feel. What differentiates this song from similar ones of the genre, though, is the faint implication of hope, of regaining autonomy: “I feel my life just slipping away/ I’ll get back one of these days.”
The next single from BTCS, “Chillin” diverts from the rest of the album stylistically. This is a bold thing to say, because it’s hard to pinpoint a stylistic throughline in this multi-genre work from which to divert. I’ll say it anyways.
Over a trap beat and heavy synthesizer, “Chillin” suggests that we just “…relax and sit back.” Where “Slacker Song” asks us to sympathize with the protagonist as an artist, “Chillin” asks us to sympathize with him as a friend. Rather than being invited into the protagonist’s world, we are asked to share it, creating a sense of intimacy that strengthens the value of the vulnerable content in the songs to come.
When Renken-Kapatos repeats the line, “We chillin,” it seems to be equal parts statement and question: we are asked to participate in this world, to consider our relationship with its author– will we accept?
Still, the rhetorical appeal of the song is subtle and does not detract from the song’s ability to get stuck in your head. “Chillin” is skillful in the way in which it avoids masking harsh realities with levity. No, instead it acknowledges the way in which contrasting moods must work in tandem through the course of BTCS.
Trippy Tiptoe Tango
The final single from BTCS, “Trippy Tiptoe Tango” is the first song which delves into Renken-Kapatos’s relationship with his step-father, the person who he describes as first bully.
“You’re a wicked, wicked kind of mean,” he laments.
The song’s title describes the delicate dance required to grow up around a domineering father figure, and the scars that linger after every misstep.
“Walking on eggshells all my life leads me to bleed,” he continues.
Seeing as the concept of the album is centered around healing from his relationship with his stepfather, it’s not surprising that Renken-Kapatos seems to pour his soul into this song. Especially following “Chillin,” the song is slow, sad, and deeply personal. Still, there is a kind of empowerment in the way Renken-Kapatos is able to issue an artistic “fuck you, too” to the man who told his mother, “Look me in the eyes, tell me you love me more./ Love me more than your only son.”
There is a sort of salvation in the line, “I’m done with you.”