Review: Kanye West and Kid Cudi Brood Bravely on ‘Kids See Ghosts’ LP
By Christopher R. Weingarten
Christopher R. Weingarten
Through day ‘n’ night, cruel summers and G.O.O.D. Fridays, superstar button-pusher Kanye West and paranoid android cult hero Kid Cudi have remained thought leaders since they started working together nearly 10 years ago. Kanye’s grain-rubbing résumé in the last decade includes a nine-minute vocoder-prog opus, a minimalist industrial noise suite and an album that occasionally got upgraded like software. Cudi is far less provocative than his MAGA-hatted boss, but he still cut a singular figure as he held strong to a stark vision as an indie-rock-loving sci-fi depressive, a lonely stoner constantly working out the cosmic slop in his head. Though he hasn’t had a hit single since 2009, Cudi’s mix of genre-free utopianism and raw, uncut emotion helped pave the way for Logic, Childish Gambino, Raury, Travis Scott and more.
It’s hard to really pinpoint if the duo are innovators or followers on their seven song, 23-minute collaboration as Kids See Ghost, a Watch the Throne-style collabo that’s less luxury rap than a stream for sitting alone in a four-cornered room staring at candles. Kanye West ‘s productions on this and his recently released Ye feel like answers to the demo-quality sketches and diaristic depression of modern Soundcloud rappers like Lil Pump and XXXtentacion. Rather than the baroque soul symphonies and conflicted raps that made West, Soundcloud rap is a place where it’s more important to catch a vibe, invent a meme or cut a raw nerve. And sometimes West and Cudi get their Grown Man Gucci Gang on. Cudi sings the phrase “feel the love” in the distended yowl of Young Thug or D.R.A.M. 17 times in less than three minutes. West fills the album with catchy gibberish like the Waka Flocka Flame-style gunshots (“Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba!”) or his new syllable of choice “Scoop!” (a callback to “Lift Yourself” a full song of “scoopy-dee poop” jabberwocky released in April). The narcotic repetition of “Reborn” feels like that Post Malone YouTube that was just the chorus of “Rockstar” looped over and over again.
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If Ye and Kids See Ghost are partially responses to bleeding-edge, teenager-approved modern rap music, it’s pretty brave and fairly smart (check out the rhythmic sophistication behind his Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bas in “Feel the Love”). But the result feels more like when the Rolling Stones, Elton John or Robert Plant would make New Wave records in the early Eighties – it’s cool, catchy, contemporary, but not exactly why we’re here.
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Still, “4th Dimension” and “Freee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” deliver on the partnership’s promise, both nothing short of fantastic. West’s sample-chopping is still masterful in the former. He already made Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Michael Jackson sound brand new on a handful of hits (“Gold Digger,” “Otis” and “Good Life,” respectively), and now he manages to do the same with a 1936 joint by big-band jazz great Louis Prima, turning “What Will Santa Claus Say?” into an unsettling, funky Greek chorus to West and Cudi’s old-fashioned rap boasts. With vocals from Ty Dolla Sign, “Freee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” is gorgeously arranged like something on 2010’s epic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with a more spontaneous feel.
For Cudi’s part, he’s mostly drowned out by his louder, more dynamic, spotlight-stealing, scenery chewing, “Scoop!”-ing partner. Still, Cudi’s lyrics, while more muted than West’s, are an album-long search. Here, someone who has spent years rapping about depression and addiction starts looking for forgiveness, peace and salvation. He croons on the title track: “Reachin’ out, huntin’ for the truth/I’m guessin’ I’m just sick of runnin’/All this time searching hard for somethin’/I can hear the angels comin.'”
Cudi wrangling with his mental health is more mature and far less flashy than the sample trail would lead you to believe: The drums from “Fire” are taken from the infamous 1966 black comedy novelty record “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!”; the guitar from “Cudi Montage” is borrowed from the demos of notable depression sufferer Kurt Cobain, which surfaced in 2015.
Those Cobain demos were but sketches and ideas – the same with a clip of gospel singer Shirley Ann Lee. Her voice, recorded sometime in the late Sixties, comes at the end of “4th Dimension,” recontextualized to almost work like a Dogme 95-style vision for West’s output in the Soundcloud era: “Just do that and then let the music do somethin’, then do that again, that’d be enough for a record,” she says. “I mean, you only want two and a half minutes if you can get it, you know, three minutes max.” West’s career is dotted by Jon Brion string arrangements, Elton John and Paul McCartney guest vocals. Cudi’s released an album as a 90-minute double CD. Though nowhere near as incisive, infectious or rewarding as their best work, Kids See Ghosts is still an important step forward into an era of big moods and short attention spans.
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Kanye West & Kid Cudi: Kids See Ghosts review – a psychedelic return to godlike power
One week on from the underwhelming, muddled solo album Ye, West is newly galvanised by Cudi’s stoner wisdom
C hristian scripture teaches that on the seventh day, God looked over the world, nodded to himself in satisfaction and settled down for a hard-earned rest. But seven days after unveiling his own imperfect creation, self-proclaimed god Kanye West has had no time for slumber. Kids See Ghosts, West’s joint project with Kid Cudi, has arrived just one week on from his polarising, half-baked eighth solo album Ye – the worst record in his previously unimpeachable catalogue.
Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock to have his liver pecked out. Kali trampled Shiva while wearing a skirt of human arms and severed heads. Now here comes West, whose rollout of Ye was punctured by his courting of America’s grim forces and offensive commentary on the history of slavery. The controversies that eternally follow West had always dissolved when it came to music-making – the component of his legacy that will endure long after the reality TV shows are pulled from the air and the pageantry around him turns to dust – but Ye suggested that even the music had lost its godlike vision and reach.
Thankfully, Kids See Ghosts succeeds by avoiding most of the pitfalls that damaged his solo release. Ye teased the idea that the cabin-in-the-woods seclusion of Wyoming – where West has been bunkered down with collaborators – would spark trenchant, introspective meditations. Instead it featured the occasional arbitrary nod to his oft-discussed id and the news cycle that West himself had forged, sprayed with a high-end sheen and stitched together in time to meet a needlessly self-imposed deadline. The record was a prom student rushing down the stairs and out to the limo in a dishevelled, half-on tux.
Enter Kid Cudi , whose colouring of West’s sound stretches all the way back to the anguished, melodic synthpop of 2008 record 808s & Heartbreak. With him as co-pilot, Kids See Ghosts is a shotgun blast to the senses, swarming with blistering electronics, laser-cut samples, psychedelic crescendos and edges as blurry as a half-remembered dream. Like Ye and West’s recently helmed Pusha T record Daytona, the album is just seven tracks long. Kanye is due to produce two more records, presumably in this format, with Nas and Teyana Taylor. The brevity is effective as Kanye and Cudi stack ideas on top of ideas, packing the 23 minutes with as much creativity as possible. The chemistry is that of two old friends who no longer have to second-guess each other’s instincts.
Ye felt sonically depressed, like every beat had been done before but better. Here, West stretches himself. Opener, Feel The Love, is a glorious riposte to the “love is all you need” hippie ideology West was pushing on Twitter just a couple weeks ago, unleashing sinister keys, a typically barbed verse from Pusha and a manic impression of a gun from Kanye that rivals Big Shaq’s ridiculous rasps . On the title track, West swathes Yasiin Bey’s voice in gentle electronics, while Cudi’s spiritual hums match the rumbling beat. Hearing the producer artfully fold the orchestration into the voices of his collaborators shows that his almighty ear for music is back.
It would be horribly inaccurate to cast Cudi as simply a facilitator for West’s rediscovered form. In fact, Kids See Ghosts could be viewed primarily as an exercise in highlighting all of Cudi’s strengths while erasing the more outlandish proclivities. It is Kanye who is frequently pulled into Cudi’s lane and not vice versa. Reborn could pass for an early Cudi cut as he blesses himself over dinky piano keys. Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2), the album’s undoubted centrepiece, is an acid-laced trip into bohemian spiritualism. Rap-rock hybrids like this are often execrable: it’s impossible to envision Kanye making it without Cudi in the booth to summon the spirit of flower power.
But what’s perhaps most striking about Kids See Ghosts is how much both artists’ writing shines. West’s lyrics are as intricate and affecting as they have been in ages. On Cudi Montage, he lays out a brutal cycle of violence and the pain of loss before signing off with a shout-out to Alice Johnson, the African American grandmother jailed for over two decades on a non-violent drug charge who Kim Kardashian West recently – and successfully – lobbied for release. In these moments, he momentarily disentangles himself from the self-spun tabloid web. The spirit of the artist who once decried the capitalist grind on Spaceship, and called out George W Bush on live TV, again seems palpable. Cudi, meanwhile, indulges in the stoner wisdom that matches his languid flows: “Many things that will trouble you / Look beyond for a feelin’ like you never knew / Reachin’ out, huntin’ for the truth” Cudi needs to believe in more than the god sitting in the studio next to him.
Kids See Ghosts will go down as a minor release in West’s canon, and this oddball odyssey to Wyoming won’t be remembered as one of his best eras. Yet the album does something he needed. It reasserts him as a fun, thrilling rap music-maker that tests the genre’s boundaries. Sometimes, gods need company.
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“Kids See Ghosts” [ft. Yasiin Bey]
Best New Track
By Sheldon Pearce
G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam
June 8, 2018
For nearly a decade now, Kanye West has brought the best out of his protégé Kid Cudi , and in turn, Cudi has left an indelible mark on several Kanye albums. Now they’ve teamed up as Kids See Ghosts for an album of the same name , and on the title track, they bridge the gap between Cudi’s stoner hymnals and the cursed, self-flagellating ego trips of Kanye’s Ye . Cudi brings a sort of balance for Kanye, and so there is less tension here. The song feels rejuvenating for everyone involved.
Produced by Cudi and Kanye with help from Plain Pat and Andrew Dawson, “Kids See Ghosts” find the duo at their most likeable—and their most compatible. Their verses are each personal (if not topical), alluding to Cudi’s private fight for his mental health and Kanye’s public fight for his soul as they swim through a gentle rush of ambient noise, whirring synths, and the soft pitter-patter of hand drums. Notably, Kanye is back rapping with gusto: There’s a fleetness to his verse that seems to imply an actual interest in rapping and in being understood, as opposed to simply being heard. “Don’t like being questioned and don’t like being less than/Any competition in any of my professions,” he spits, putting his point into practice. Cudi verses can often feel like rambling, but here his fortune-cookie wisdom is potent and sung in earnest: “Many things that will trouble you/Look beyond for a feelin’ like you never knew/Reachin’ out, huntin’ for the truth.” But it’s rarely ever about what Cudi is saying; it’s about the effectiveness of those awe-inspiring hums , crashing waves of thrumming vocals that bring new meaning to the words “drone strike.” As Cudi murmurs and Kanye rhapsodizes, it’s like they’re discovering their chemistry anew.
CORRECTION : A previous version of this review inaccurately stated that André 3000 and Boogz co-produced “Kids See Ghosts.” This has since been fixed.
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Kids See Ghosts (Kanye West and Kid Cudi) – ‘Kids See Ghosts’ review
This new collaboration sees Kanye West and Kid Cudi catch up with the fragmented, fragile brand of hip-hop that they helped to shape
There is a calmness to the debut album from Kids Sees Ghosts, the new collaboration between Kanye West and Cleveland, Ohio, rapper Kid Cudi . The former artist will take the lion’s share of the headlines around the project, given that it’s the third release he’s been deeply involved with this month – there was, of course, Kanye’s solo record, ‘ye’, and the Pusha T album ‘Daytona’, which he produced – but, actually, this is Cudi’s album through and through.
It’s characterised by the ethereal, low-key beats and off-kilter, barely in-tune singing that have been Cudi’s trademark since his emotional 2008 mixtape ‘A Kid Named Cudi’ influenced Kanye’s introspective and ice-cold ‘808s & Heartbreak’, which in turn influenced the likes of Drake and The Weeknd. This is the sound of Kanye and Cudi catching up with themselves. They have helped to shape a world in which rappers can lay bare their vulnerabilities and address issues such as mental health – a world that gave us Vic Mensa’s 2017 debut and saw Jay-Z return with ‘4.44’ , a bald mea culpa that wilfully exposed his fragile masculinity – and here they unite to issue an almost uniquely meditative, self-accepting album.
The stand-out moment of ‘Kids See Ghosts’ occurs just past the mid-way point of the finale track, ‘Cudi Montage’. There’s a call-and-response between the lyrics “ Lord shine your light on me” and backing vocals that implore, “ Stay strong” , while a calming wash of synth ebbs away in the background. Another stand-out forms the chorus of ‘Freee (Ghost Town Pt.2’), which recycles a moment from the ‘ye’ track ‘Ghost Town’. On the original, emo rapper 070 Shake belts out the line “And nothing hurts any more / I feel kind of free ” in the manner of a vintage soul singer; there is jubilant release. Here it sounds defiant: “Guess what, baby? I feel freeee!” Elsewhere on the album, lyrics allude to “ pain ” and being “ lost ”. The message is clear: it’s okay to not feel okay.
A seven-track album (it’s Kanye’s current obsession; both ‘ye’ and ‘Daytona’ ran to the same length) can hardly help but feel slight, though the brevity actually suits this collaborative record. It sounds, suitably, ghostly and supernatural – a brief glimpse into another world. On ‘Reborn’ – which rides a brilliant, brittle, staccato beat – the duo instructs us to “ keep moving forward ”. This, though, is the sound of two artists looking back over the vast distance they’ve travelled so far.
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Kids See Ghosts Is the Win Kanye and Kid Cudi Badly Needed
Hip-hop’s greatest duos are wonders of chemistry and complementary strengths. Chuck D was Public Enemy’s politically charged brain, and Flavor Flav provided comic relief. Outkast’s Big Boi anchored Andre 3000’s offbeat creativity with solid hooks and bars. Pusha-T and Malice mixed a malevolent id and a haunted conscience as the Clipse. Kid Cudi and Kanye West are an unlikely pair because neither one is heralded as a technically gifted singer or rapper, but working together on West’s 808s & Heartbreak , Cudi’s Man on the Moon series, and elsewhere, the pair managed to leave indelible marks on the landscape of mainstream rap. 808s is on the short list of the most influential albums of the aughts; without the soft drums, atmospheric synths, and wounded vocals of songs like “Say You Will,” it’s possible that Drake would continue trailing the moves of indie rap vets Phonte and Nickelus F, as he did in his early mixtapes, instead of exploding into the pop-rap supernova he is today. You can catch a glimmer of Cudi in fashion-conscious rappers like Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky; you can hear his unvarnished emotionalism in the confessional words of young songwriters like Kevin Abstract .
Kid Cudi and Kanye West are an effective team because both are Midwest boys with complicated stories, whose music radiates whatever joy or pain they’re feeling in the moment. Kanye is hip-hop’s premier maximalist and egomaniac, but his music and manner have grown progressively prickly and troubled since the loss of his mother in 2007, and we are only this year learning that worrisome reports about his well-being during the rollout of 2016’s The Life of Pablo dovetailed with an opioid addiction and a bipolar disorder diagnosis . Cudi chased his dream of success in hip-hop from Cleveland to New York City, where he toiled in retail until he met West and Fool’s Gold Records founder A-Trak, who joint-released his bleak breakout single “Day N Nite.” Over the next few years, the singer built a strong following off of therapeutic tunes about coping with depression, then a 2010 drug arrest cemented the idea that the depression and dependency stories of “Don’t Play This Song” and “These Worries” were coming from a very real place of inner torment. Both West and Cudi closed out 2016 in treatment, West in a terrifying hospitalization incident where he was carted off, handcuffed inside an ambulance, and Cudi in rehab for self-harm and thoughts of taking his own life .
Kids See Ghosts , their debut collaborative album , is the work of two men struggling to shake their demons. West is the reckless, flamboyant half of the duo; his first appearance on the album opener “Feel the Love” seats him in the role of a ballroom commentator (or a dembow artist), yelping monosyllabic exclamations over the beat while Cudi whoops through the hook. “Fire” sees Kanye blasting rails and lashing out at haters before Cudi, the pair’s relaxed, introspective half, offers an earnest invocation: “Heaven lift me up.” The good-cop, bad-cop approach is aided by music that can turn from bliss to rage on a dime. “Fire” is a devilish drum-and-guitar stomp that sounds like Man on the Moon 2 ’s “REVOFEV” descending into a riot. “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” cues up old Marcus Garvey lines about knowledge of self over a sinister rock riff while both rappers engage in a bit of primal-scream therapy. A massive hook from Ty Dolla $ign teases stunning beauty out of the maelstrom, as if to suggest that true freedom is the potential either to sink under the weight of what’s bugging you or to work at rising above it. Kids See Ghosts wants us to float; the same way Kanye’s newest solo effort YE sought a measure of redemption across “Wouldn’t Leave” and “Ghost Town,” the new album’s “Reborn” and “Cudi Montage” attempt to carry on by creating distance between both men and their tough times.
“Reborn” could be the closest thing we get to an apologetic Kanye West this cycle. His opening verse has a firmer grasp on what infuriates people about his antics nowadays than YE , an album he claims to have written specifically to address the subject: “I was off the chain, I was often drained / I was off the meds, I was called insane / What an awesome thing, engulfed in shame / I want all the rain, I want all the pain / I want all the smoke, I want all the blame.” Cudi’s refrain of “Keep movin’ forward” acknowledges the choice you face after fucking things up for yourself. You can stew and grouse, or you can get to work making sure whatever you did never happens again. The album closer “Cudi Montage” is a pledge from both artists to do the latter. Cudi’s lines about wanting to crack under pressure end on a promising note — “in time, I find I’m stronger that I ever was” — and the old woke Kanye returns (slightly) in a verse about how goodness is a cakewalk until good fortune fails you.
Kids See Ghosts is the sound of old friends pooling their strengths to overcome tragedy. It’s more nakedly emotional than YE could muster in all of its indecision and bluffing. That’s thanks to the presence of a sentimental hook man to cut into Yeezy’s cinematic scenes of drugs and mayhem. Kids is more concise than Cudi’s gifted but bloated last album Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ . That’s because Cudi needs someone to challenge and edit him, and the presence of Kanye (as well as longtime collaborators Plain Pat, Dot Da Genius, E*Vax from Ratatat, and Jeff Bhasker) reins in the questionable experimental tendencies that torched his 2015 album Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven . Capping all the new G.O.O.D. Music projects at seven tracks saved Kanye West from himself once this month. YE wrapped before the man got a chance to say anything as damaging as he did when given the opportunity to speak at length on TMZ . At seven tracks, Kids See Ghosts smartly deprives itself of much room to waver. There are verses that could be tighter — see: anytime Kanye raps harder than his threshold for breath control permits — but no outright duds.
This is a better outcome than we’ve seen in the recent rash of rappers teaming up to make single-serving joint mixtapes out of mutual admiration and a week of shared studio time. Drake and Future famously united for 2016’s What a Time to Be Alive , which patterned itself after Datpiff-era mind melds like Gucci Mane and Future’s Free Bricks . The success of What a Time tripped off some reasonably well-received follow-ups: Future and Young Thug’s Super Slimey , 21 Savage and Offset’s Without Warning , and Travis Scott and Quavo’s Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho . Each tape posted up some great ideas but lasted long enough to illuminate subtle imbalances in the pairing, ultimately wearing out its welcome. Drake could match Future for hooks and feels, but the street talk landed him out of his depth. Super Slimey solo tracks like “Killed Before” and “4 da Gang” outclassed the tandem tracks, because Future and Thug often work better alone than in groups. Kids See Ghosts is the succulent fruit of a collaboration that stretches back a decade; it’s the guitar album Cudi has tried and failed at twice; and it’s the longest we’ve heard Kanye speak this year without saying anything awful or otherwise disappointing. Let’s claim this W.
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Another week, another major Kanye West produced project. The latest episode features two of my favorite artists in Kid Cudi and West, so trust that I’m excited about it. Interestingly enough, this collaboration was very close to not happening… Just a few years ago, the two midwest legends had a bit of a falling out while they were both going through a few things in their personal lives. Since then, they’ve reunited, and promised to have as good a music relationship as they ever had. With all that being said, I guess the major question to ask is what do I think this album is going to sound like? I say a smidge of cockiness, a good amount of infectious melodies, and lots of craziness!
5. 4TH DIMENSION
Sampling Louis Prima’s “What Will Santa Claus Say” to eerie effect, Ye and Cudi touch on everything from accidental anal sex, to Ric Flair and Lacoste. Kanye’s double entendres and wordplay are the highlight of this song, as he transforms a Santa Clause sample to a summertime bop. genius!
4. KIDS SEE GHOSTS
The sounds used on this song is similar to what dark spiritual people listen to as they cook up a potion.
Similar to ‘reborn,’ Kanye expresses himself confidently on this song. In all honesty, his verse is arguably the best on the album. Yasiin Bey’s chants of “Kids see ghosts sometimes, kids see ghosts sometimes, kids see ghost” coupled with the beat makes this song like an Om Shanti Shanti Shanti—a peaceful mantra.
3. FREE (GHOST TOWN, PT. 2)
“Free” is like an experimentation with rock music. The ghost-like sound effect that precedes Kanye’s vocalization of “free” paints a picture of the idea behind ‘Ghost Town pt. 2’. Matter of fact, Kanye’s chorus will make a good soundtrack for any movie about ghosts.
Kanye has had chemistry with a few artists, and lately, Ty Dolla $ign has been his new favorite. With two of his favorite artists on this track, Kanye has all the secret ingredients in the world to cook-up a hit song, but he misses it and aims for an experiment which likely needs improvement.
The flow and rhythm between Ye, Cudi and Ty Dolla $ign makes me think they’d be great as a boy band. (I hope Kanye doesn’t see this).
‘Reborn’ focuses on how Cudi and Ye have overcome their personal issues and moved on from their previous mistakes; in other words, the track is practically therapeutic for them. They also use this song as an opportunity to speak their mind in order to feel free and reborn.
I’ll play this song on Sunday because it feels divine like a plea to God for help—We all need help, guys.
1. FEEL THE LOVE
“Ga-ga-gat, ga-gat, ga-gat, ga-gat-gat, grrrat” is my anthem this summer! Kanye West and Cudi can take all my money as long as I get to watch them perform this song live.
“Brrr-ah-da-da-da, brrr-ah-da-da-da” might sound ridiculous for a rapper like Kanye, but that energy made me bob my head so hard that I’m not sure why it didn’t fall off. The Chicago rapper is so creative that he can make a melody out of what could easily be a simple Ad-lib.
Pusha T presents the solo rap verse on this song with Kid Cudi’s resounding, vibrant and melodious chorus. “I can still feel the love” continues to echo even after the song.
SONG BY SONG BREAKDOWN
1. FEEL THE LOVE (5/5)
2. FIRE (2.5/5)
3. 4TH DIMENSION (4.2/5)
4. FREE (GHOST TOWN) (3/5)
5. REBORN (5/5)
6. KIDS SEE GHOSTS (3.5/5)
7. CUDI MONTAGE (3/5)
Kid Cudi and Kanye West have been making music together for a long time. During that time, they have had personal problems, and stitched the wounds of their relationship together; but this album is what they both needed to heal. Nevertheless, music is the best way Ye knows how to express himself, and he does that smoothly on this album.
Kanye’s projects as of late can only be described with a lot of oxymorons. They can’t be described as extremely good, but they are far from bad — this project proves my theory to be true. However, in-between the good and bad in this album is creativity, personal views, beauty, freshness, sketchy and intriguing thoughts.
The best thing about ‘Kids See Ghosts’ is the blend of different sounds. (Seriously, where does Kanye find these samples?) With his production, Mr. West continues to create a new dimension of music.
Both lyrically and sonically, this album is very pleasing to listen to. Kanye West’s ability to express himself on songs like ‘Kids See Ghosts’ and ‘Reborn’ is the definition of “free thinking” — Nothing offensive, nothing alarming and nothing that will make you want to delete his entire discography, just words from an artist who has had the time to criticize himself. When Kid Cudi isn’t humming, or singing, he’s spitting some pretty decent bars on his verses. All in all, listening to this album is like hearing the stories of two best friends who have been on quite the adventure.
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Review: Kanye West & Kid Cudi Fly High Above Their Demons on ‘Kids See Ghosts’
With Kid Cudi’s help, it’s on ‘Kids See Ghosts’ that Kanye West makes a firm attempt to change things through a vessel other than himself.
W hile his controversies this spring seemed to be engulfing him, Kanye West expressed via Twitter his desire to love everyone and look past personal differences. In that spirit, this review will focus solely on his most recent project, Kids See Ghosts (released June 8, 2018 via GOOD Music / Def Jam), a collaboration with Kid Cudi, and the third of five weekly Kanye-produced releases. The dreamlike cover art, courtesy of Takashi Murakami, gives a good sense of its sonic framework, which distills, among other elements, a Kurt Cobain sample, raunchy synthesizers, and meticulously programmed trap drums into a concise and wildly colorful product.
‘Kids See Ghosts’ – Kanye West, Kid Cudi
The album’s release, in typical Kanye fashion, was drawn out and tumultuous—the livestream of its premiere was significantly delayed, and most streaming services somehow missed the memo on the official tracklist. As the similarly chaotic drop of The Life of Pablo suggested, West makes music for himself first and foremost; some of it might eventually trickle out to his audience, but he’s in no rush to satisfy. On his 2016 Saint Pablo Tour, he shouted, “This is my favorite song!” at the beginning of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”—maybe he meant it’s his favorite song that he’s written, but it’s equally conceivable that he meant his favorite song of all time.
All of his projects this summer are seven songs long, and this leanness has troubled some fans and critics. He is exceedingly self-aware, though, and insists on having the last laugh—he mocks his naysayers at the end of “4th Dimension” with a sample of Shirley Ann Lee saying, “ That’d be enough for a record, I mean, you only want two and a half minutes if you can get it, you know, three minutes max .” Brevity, in reality, forces the often maximalist Kanye to make each track razor-sharp. Despite, or maybe because of, its short run-time, Kids See Ghosts is a well-focused triumph, channeling Cudi’s fondness for psychedelia into something that is at once soul, ambient rap, and indie rock.
The record kicks off with “ Feel the Love ,” a gritty rap song anchored by gunshot percussion and Yeezus- y synths. Oddly enough, its only real verse (and an excellent one, at that) comes from Pusha T, yet there is an audible sense of innocence and joy in what Kanye and Cudi are doing. Their violent ad-lib noises carry a large chunk of the track, including West’s whole “verse,” and the pre-chorus is just one line: “ Where’s the chorus? ” Immediately, Cudi’s answers over a smoked-out adaptation of the song’s main instrumental: “ I can still feel the love. ” This one may take time to settle in, but its title is no mistake—even though Kanye’s solo album ditched the working title LOVE EVERYONE , it’s a sentiment that pervades everything he touches these days.
Another aptly titled track, “ Fire ,” follows right after, featuring guest production work from André 3000—which is all the more exciting after Kanye hyped up a guest feature that never arrived on TLOP ( “3 Stacks, can you help me out? ”). Kanye seems to stumble accidentally into his opening verse, yet close listening reveals how he takes on the calculated air of an improv comic looking to find some footing before diving in. He begins with the spoken-work “ I love all your shit talkin ’” before venting some anger with a flow so furious that André’s presence must be compelling him to bring the heat. Snarling guitars, lo-fi drums, and background humming from Cudi call to mind the arena-shaking “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and as Cudi boastfully dismisses judgment on his first real verse on the album, he matches the beat’s intensity with his own. “ This the type shit that they couldn’t make/ Watch the fakes/ Leave ‘em buzzin’, thought they wasn’t, huh? ” he raps, before eventually concluding with a passionate outro (“Heaven lift me up”). Here, Kanye and Cudi reveal that they both have demons that haunt them, but neither wants, or allows, this to define them.
Built off of an old Louis Prima sample, “ 4th Dimension ” pays homage to the days of “Jesus Walks” and chop-up-the-soul-Kanye. The sample (“ Oh, oh, oh / What is Santa bringing? ”) acknowledges the dynamic between West and his fans, who eagerly await and devour his work. Kanye’s verse is packed with some clever (and some less clever) lines that detail a sexual encounter. It will undoubtedly infuriate some listeners, which he actually recognizes: “ This the theme song, oh something wrong .” Cudi’s dense verse references his personal struggles over the past few years. He clarifies that this is indeed the theme song, which makes more sense than Kanye’s claim once he wraps thing up: “ But you don’t hear me though, drama, we let it go / Watch the guitars roll, and let your friends know. ” Leaving their personal baggage behind, the two take this opportunity to launch into their most guitar-heavy track, which will likely become one of the record’s most popular.
“4th Dimension” – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
The official sequel to Ye ’s “Ghost Town” (which also features Kid Cudi), “ Freeee ” continues the duo’s celebration of defying cultural norms, and its opening sample of a warped Marcus Garvey speech emphasizes independence and self-control. Kanye even references his polarizing “Lift Yourself” with a brief “scoop” ad-lib that brushes off those who dismissed it as a joke. Like its predecessor, this is a soaring soul-rock hybrid about ignoring what once caused pain. Lyrically, it’s pretty simple, but every line is chanted so earnestly that their claims of “feeling free” are entirely convincing. Kanye uses his freedom to rid himself of a filter, which has arguably always been a defining characteristic of his, and interjects that “you should quit your job to this.” Frequent collaborator Ty Dolla $ign comes in with a tongue-in-cheek protest: “ Hold up, that’ll politic / Ooh, one day they hate you / Next day they love you / I’m still yellin, ‘Fuck you’ / I could never trust. ” Evidently, Kanye has no plans to filter himself, as he indicated on Ye , and Ty notes that despite the opposition, the hitmaker is still in full command, capable of moving listeners with his art alone.
The delicate highlight “ Reborn ,” one of the only tracks that West didn’t produce, builds on this notion of freedom over a sleek piano-driven beat that allows some space for Kid Cudi’s signature humming and off kilter melodies to shine. Kanye’s verse is particularly strong here, tackling his antisocial tendencies, opioid addiction, and bipolar disorder. “ I was off the meds, I was called insane / What a awesome thing, engulfed in shame / I want all the rain, I want all the pain ,” he spits over swaggering drums, eventually chiding his opponents: “ All of you Mario, it’s all a game. ” Cudi’s verse, mostly sung by contrast, explores his own mental health and drug dependency. “ I had my issues, ain’t that much I could do / But, peace is something that starts with me, with me .” Regardless of the drama surrounding the two, who as recently as 2016 were feuding with each other, there is a determination here to leave behind the past and “keep movin’ forward,” as Cudi recites throughout.
“Reborn” – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
“Kids See Ghosts ” is a spooky reflection on the difficulties of fame and success. Its cerebral production grants some room for surprisingly chilling sounds that could nicely compliment a scary movie. Throbbing synths and clicking percussion propel Cudi’s loose, sleepy verse, in which he comments on his struggle to find happiness. Kanye’s, by contrast, is tight and refined, an active attempt to live up to his own legacy: “ Well it took me long enough to rap on this strong enough / Paid this shit just gon’ give up ‘cause Ye just gon’ live up / To everything that sucks to you and that’s never enough / Thought I’d be clever enough to give up while I’m ahead. ” Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) contributes to the song’s themes of paranoia and darkness with a hook that declares, “Kids see ghosts sometimes/ Spirit, moving around, just moving around.” Kanye and Cudi’s demons don’t directly attack them, but are an ever-present reminder that, as he explains on Ye ’s opening track, “ The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest .”
“Kids See Ghosts” – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
Which brings us to “ Cudi Montage ,” the big finale with the aforementioned Cobain sample. An acoustic guitar and polished drums carry the two verses, separated by a mellow, synth driven chorus that finds the duo asking the Lord for salvation. Cudi raps about “sinkin’ lower” and introduces the song’s overtly religious themes. Kanye throws down a rhyme-packed performance that tackles gang warfare and makes one of the album’s most political statements:
All growin’ up in environment Where doin’ crime the requirement They send us off to prison for retirement Hopefully Alice Johnson will inspire men
Here he returns to the environment that made him — Chicago, which he recently called the “ murder capital of the world ” — which is swarming with ghosts that have followed him for his entire career. Maybe he feels he hasn’t done enough and is plagued by survivor’s guilt; maybe he has big plans for the future. Regardless, it’s on this track that the album’s title really comes into full clarity. These aren’t violent ghosts from a horror film—these ghosts weigh on their consciences, constantly pushing them to be better.
With Cudi’s help, it’s on Kids See Ghosts that Kanye makes a firm attempt to change things through a vessel other than himself: “ Lord, shine your light on me, save me, please .” For the first time in a while, the man who titled a track “I Am A God” looks up, recognizes his place in the world, and feels that he cannot endure on his own. It’s an all-too-human conclusion to one of his most personal and unusual projects.
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Kids See Ghosts
Album review of kids see ghosts by kids see ghosts..
Release Date: Jun 8, 2018
Record label: G.O.O.D.
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Album Review: Kids See Ghosts by Kids See Ghosts
Exceptionally good, based on 6 critics.
One week removed from the release of ye, the eighth solo studio album by Kanye West, the (sometimes) misunderstood genius made good on releasing the self-titled debut from Kids See Ghosts, a duo comprised of himself and longtime collaborator Kid Cudi. Sitting at a painfully short seven songs, the project is every bit as good as it should be; this is genuinely the reintroduction to both artists the world deserves. Yeezy and Cudi have arguably gone through a lot over the past few years. While not entirely poster children for mental health ….
Full Review >>
In the week that followed ye, I found myself asking questions that would daunt any Kanye superfan: has Kanye lost his genius? Is a bipolar disorder diagnosis the one hurdle he can't overcome? Will Kids See Ghosts be the death knell of Kanye's career, at least outside producing? Thankfully, Kids See Ghosts is an album to send your demons packing and put your worst fears about Kanye West 's artistic decline to bed. I may be focusing on my teenage hero Kanye a little too much, as kudos of course must go to Kid Cudi also, who as one half of KSG delivers his best full-length offering since his classic debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day. For the most part in fact, the album's production is curated with Cudi in mind, a sonic bag of treats for those who vibe to the gloomy, celestial exploration of his early material as well as the rap rock stylings he has demonstrated since.
It should be no surprise how quickly critics harpooned Kanye West's eighth studio album ye, which has been out for a week now --ravenous to punish him for wearing the wrong hat last month, not to mention the clickbait potential of exiling one of music's mightiest forces, he was ripe for sacrifice. He always knew they would try to tear him down But the word here is 'try', because if you wander outside the blogosphere, there are millions of passionate fans celebrating the same subversive novelties that have critics brandishing their torches and pitchforks. Now it's going to be a blast watching them all scramble to reevaluate their agenda to 'cancel' him after he's delivered his collaboration with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts, ransacking them with just the defibrillating charge of songwriting, production and catharsis they originally pined for in his solo release.
Kid Cudi has always felt like an unwilling protégé of Kanye West; for as much as his mentor values instant gratification (to the point that he'll bus out every influencer in the L.A. rap media space to a listening session for a project he literally only finished minutes prior), Cudi has honorably maintained a tunnel vision for the fringe, often to a fault. As impactful as his seminal work was, Cudi's output since 2010's Man on The Moon II: The Legend of Mr.
He just turned 41, and Kanye West still craves nothing more than to make a big mess, plunge into it headfirst, and take us with him. This impulse unites him with his dragon-energy brother in the White House, who similarly revels in just saying it out loud to see how it feels. It must be intoxicating to open your mouth and say whatever occurs to you, knowing you will endure mild censure at worst before reaping your rewards.
In the mid-’90s RZA, leader of the Wu-Tang Clan and one of Kanye West's biggest influences, produced five albums for Wu-Tang members by himself, an intense process where "I didn’t come outside, didn’t have too many girl relations, didn’t even enjoy the shit. I just stayed in the basement. Hours and hours and days and days. Turkey burgers and blunts".
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Kanye West & Kid Cudi, KIDS SEE GHOSTS | Album Review 💿
Published by the musical hype on june 11, 2018 june 11, 2018.
Kanye West and Kid Cudi bring an enthralling, experimental listening experience as hip-hop duo KIDS SEE GHOSTS on their brief, self-titled debut.
Kanye West has been extremely busy as of late. While he made a massive faux pas with his ‘Trump-praise’ and more bothersome, his infamous “slavery was a choice” comments, he’s been hot when it comes to music. It seemed like a risk having West entirely produce DAYTONA , the seven-track album by Pusha T, yet the results were brilliant. While his own seven-track album, Ye , wasn’t nearly as triumphant, it had its share of moments. Now West teams up with Kid Cudi as KIDS SEE GHOSTS for the highly-anticipated self-titled, seven-track debut album. Kids See Ghosts is the most experimental, left-of-center project of the three, fittingly.
“Feel the Love”
“Feel the Love” kicks things off with an expressive chorus sung by Kid Cudi: “I can still feel the love.” While it would make sense for Cudi or West to follow-up with a verse, instead the listener gets the sole verse from Pusha T . The results are satisfactory, followed by more ‘vibe’ than substance. West makes aggressive sound effects, while Cudi continues to repeat the titular lyric over bombastic, high-energy production. The vibe definitely earns an ‘A,’ though there’s not much of a traditional song.
“I love all your shit talkin’ / You ain’t got nothin’ better to…do with yourself?” Kanye West kicks “Fire” off ferociously on the intro, before dropping an aggressive, if brief verse. Essentially, he seems to be trying to move on and rebound from failures, mistakes, and shortcomings. After allowing the instrumental to shine on its own (that thudding beat is awesome), Kid Cudi follows up with the second verse, which is patterned similarly to West’s. “It’s so many days I prayed to God,” he begins, continuing, “All this pain, I couldn’t seem to find a way / On a mission livin’, carry on / Got my family, I’m seein’ through by the days.” On the outro, Cudi is even more spiritually-driven: “Heaven lift me up, hmm-mmm.” Gotta love that signature Cudi hum, sigh.
“4 th Dimension”
Things get even better and more unique on KID SEE GHOSTS . Arguably, “4 th Dimension” is where the heat is cranked up. The Louis Prima Christmas sample alone is enough to make this joint intriguing. Beyond the unique sampling, “4 th Dimension” is anchored by a sick beat, and some of the most compelling rhymes on the album as of yet. Kanye West sounds locked in on the first verse, even if accidental anal sex isn’t exactly my first choice for conversation topics. Kid Cudi is also locked in as well, referencing his misadventures and giving another hip-hop shout-out to Ric Flair.
Arguably the most fun song on KID SEE GHOSTS is “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2).” Following a fitting Marcus Garvey sample, Kanye West explodes with a hook sure to make you giggle the first time you hear it. It’s a bit dramatic – perhaps even a wee bit outlandish – but he makes his point crystal clear with honesty.
“I don’t feel pain anymore / Guess what, baby? I feel freeee (scoop!)”
Beyond the chorus, he’s assisted on a left-of-center, yet pleasing verse by Kid Cudi, and more frequently Ty Dolla $ign . It’s weird mind you, but Ty’s unique tone is a perfect fit. Throw in contributions from Anthony Hamilton alongside Ty and things grow even more soulful. Also, worth noting, Cudi gets his own chorus and bridge to testify: “Died and came back twice / Now I’m freeee.”
The lengthiest song from KIDS SEE GHOSTS arrives via “Reborn.” On the one hand, a project-this-short needs a fully-developed record with a standard form. “Reborn” certainly checks off the prescribed boxes. That said, at about five-and-a-half-minutes, it’s actually too long compared to the shorter numbers. Still, the Cudi hook is sick, and both rappers drop authentic, worthwhile verses. West asserts on the first verse, “I was, off the chain, I was often drained / I was off the meds, I was called insane.” As for Cudi, “Had so much on my mind, I didn’t know where to go / I’ve come a long way from them hauntin’ me.”
The title track, “Kids See Ghosts” features one of the better beats of the LP. Furthermore, we’re spoiled with the Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def ) hook throughout the course of the record, save for post-first verse. Bey also drops a notable bridge. Once again, Kanye West impresses with his flow – he’s got some bars on the second verse. KIDS SEE GHOSTS concludes with the hum-filled “Cudi Montage.” While the Kid is in the driver’s seat (“‘Cause I feel the world weighin’ on me heavy, tryna keep it steady / Read for the mission”), Mr. Hudson appears on the chorus of the rock-infused joint. Also, West delivers a socially-conscious verse. All in all, it’s a fitting closer.
So, how does KIDS SEE GHOSTS stack up? Ultimately, Kanye West and Kid Cudi make a great hip-hop duo, period. That’s not a shocking revelation, given how well their past collaborations have worked. This is a tight, 23-minute album with some great moments and no huge missteps. Sometimes the song structures are questionable with more ‘vibe’ as opposed to deep songwriting, but honestly, West and Cudi are open about their missteps in life, which adds authenticity. It’s not quite the ‘second coming,’ but certainly a victory for both rappers.
Gems : “4 th Dimension,” “Freeee,” “Reborn,” & “Kids See Ghosts”
KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Kanye West & Kid Cudi • KIDS SEE GHOSTS • GOOD / Def Jam • Release : 6.8.18
Photo credits : good / def jam.
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the musical hype
the musical hype aka Brent Faulkner has earned Bachelor and Masters degrees in music (music Education, music theory/composition respectively). A multi-instrumentalist, he plays piano, trombone, and organ among numerous other instruments. He's a certified music educator, composer, and a freelance music journalist. Faulkner cites music and writing as two of the most important parts of his life. Notably, he's blessed with a great ear, possessing perfect pitch.
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The story behind the KIDS SEE GHOSTS album cover
How Takashi Murakami transformed his painting Manji-Fuji into the perfect album cover for Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s joint project, KIDS SEE GHOSTS.
October 09, 2023 5 min read
The year is 2018. Beyoncé gave us Beychella. Meghan Markle married Prince Harry. Donald Trump became the first US President to meet a North Korean leader. NFT market giant, OpenSea was in its infancy. The world was waiting in anticipation for the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Along comes KIDS SEE GHOSTS – a brand new musical duo composed of Kid Cudi and Kanye West – with their eponymous debut album.
KIDS SEE GHOSTS animated show preview on YouTube, 2020
KIDS SEE GHOSTS was the third release from Kanye West’s Wyoming Sessions , following on the heels of the controversial album ye . On both ye and KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Kanye opens up about his recent bipolar diagnosis. Teaming up with longtime collaborator and friend, Kid Cudi (the two have since had a public falling out) resulted in a more balanced perspective than that offered in ye. A Pitchfork review describes it as “an album about brokenness—thoughts fragmented, relationships ended, societal ties cut.” While Kanye was reckoning with his own mental health publicly, this was Cudi’s first album since going to rehab for depression. He had written to fans via Facebook in October 2016.
I am not at peace. I haven't been since you've known me. If I didn't come here, I would’ve done something to myself. I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life. Theres a ragin violent storm inside of my heart at all times.
The album was released on Friday, June 8, 2018, in Los Angeles through Wicked Awesome Records and GOOD Music, and distributed by Def Jam Recordings.
In a triumphant return, Kid Cudi hums and prays “on this road I find/these scars I left behind/heaven lift me up” over the marching beat of “ Fire ”.
Who designed the KIDS SEE GHOSTS album cover?
Capturing this feeling of freedom in isolation on the album cover was the task of world-famous Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami.
This was not the first time Kanye’s and Murakami’s paths had crossed. Murakami had previously designed the cover of Kanye’s third studio album, Graduation (2007), as well as animating the music video for the single “Good Life”.
Takashi Murakami's album cover art for Kanye West's Graduation, 2007
Times Nature, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, 2018
Kid Cudi wearing 18k gold Murakami-approved ‘Kiki’ chain designed by Ben Baller
Who is Takashi Murakami?
He might be a visual artist, but Takashi Murakami has made his mark on both the music and fashion industries too. Drake is among his collectors, he even name-drops him on Meek Mill’s Going Bad , boasting “lotta Murakami in the hallway.” Murakami had also worked with Louis Vuitton on a now iconic collaboration that reimagined the LV monogram. In short, he’s a household name and his commercial success is partly due to his ability to read and reinterpret mass media and culture. The KIDS SEE GHOSTS album cover features artwork by Takashi Murakami who collaborated with ‘Ye on his Graduation cover alongside creating the animation for his “Good Morning” music video.
Murakami coined the term ‘superflat’ to describe his and some of his contemporaries’ aesthetic approach. Although it might be identified with Western pop art , Murakami’s theory of the Superflat style draws a connection from the two-dimensional imagery of the Edo period Japanese art to Japanese popular culture today. Anime and manga are major influences on his work particularly in his use of recurring characters. Murakami’s incorporation of both classical art and popular culture also flattens any distinction between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” art.
Although he is most famous for his flower works, Manji-Fuji (2000) is a quintessentially Murakami work. Inspired by Hokusai’s series, One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji , the great mountain looms in the background. It anchors the painting with the weight of its historical and religious significance in Japanese culture. Although it is a colour laser print, Murakami mimics the woodblock print style known as ukiyo-e. However, perched on a tree we find two of Murakami’s oval characters – one on top of the other, faces expressive and covered in eyes. The stark difference in colour makes the characters the focal point, while the symbol of old Japan fades into obscurity.
Takashi Murakami, Kid Cudi, and Virgil Abloh at Gagosian LA in 2016
Inspiration for KIDS SEE GHOSTS album cover, Manji-Fuji, Takashi Murakami, 2001
What is the meaning behind the KIDS SEE GHOSTS album cover?
For the KIDS SEE GHOSTS album cover, acclaimed Japanese artist Takashi Murakami reimagined Manji-Fuji – imbuing it with new meaning nearly eighteen years later. The background comes alive with washes of pinks and blues that suggest a sunset, or perhaps a sunrise. This ambiguity is intentional and reflects the sonic mood of the album – where beginnings and endings blur.
The album cover transposes the original painting to another planet – one where the same rules of gravity don’t apply. The oval characters are unmoored and have floated towards the left of the cover. Two new characters have also appeared – a ghost balanced on top of what looks like a floating serpent cloud. They all look out of the cover, confronting the onlooker straight on – the intense stares challenge you to join them. If the Kanji script is anything to go by, join them in the “chaos”.
Mental illness can be terrifying and isolating to experience, but the album remains intensely hopeful with lyrics encouraging listeners to “keep moving forward.” KIDS SEE GHOSTS is a rich atmospheric exploration of what lies on the other side – “feelin' I'm out of my past life/died and came back twice/now I'm freeee .”
A Man Named Scott (2021) is a documentary following the musical career of Kid Cudi. Read the full Pitchfork review of KIDS SEE GHOSTS. Keep up with the world of Takashi Murakami on Instagram and Twitter .
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The main characters, a family of four, are White.
Possessed man smacks a teen girl, rips her hair, a
Married couple kisses. Teens flirt and kiss briefl
Infrequent uses of "s--t," "dips--t," "damn," "oh
Verbal reference to steroids.
Parents need to know that Night Swim is a horror movie about a family that moves into a house with a haunted pool; at first it appears to have healing qualities, but there's a price to be paid. Violence is the biggest issue, with a possessed man smacking a teen girl, sending her flying across a room and…
It's a pretty cynical message, and not necessarily true, but the movie's muddled theme could be considered a variation on "there's no such thing as a free lunch" -- i.e., a gift might come with strings attached.
Positive Role Models
Parents rush to the rescue of children in trouble, but otherwise there's no extraordinary or admirable behavior.
The main characters, a family of four, are White. While the focus is largely on the father, the mother and teen daughter do have agency and personalities. Many smaller roles are filled by characters of color, including a Black love interest, a Latino baseball coach and his son, an Asian family that was previously terrorized by the pool, and a doctor played by a female actor who identifies as South Asian.
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Violence & Scariness
Possessed man smacks a teen girl, rips her hair, and throws her across a room. Possessed man grabs a woman by the throat and lifts her in the air. Kids in peril. Many jump-scares. Monstrous hands grab innocent victims. Victims are yanked under water. Character whacked with baseball bat. Character sacrifices self, death by suicide. Characters in danger of drowning. Hand sliced open, hand cut on broken glass, bloody wounds. Ghostly figures. Person with icky black stuff running from eyes and nose.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Married couple kisses. Teens flirt and kiss briefly.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.
Infrequent uses of "s--t," "dips--t," "damn," "oh my God," "barf bag," "idiot," "poo in the pudding." Character refers to a cat who refuses to join her in the pool as "p---y."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Night Swim is a horror movie about a family that moves into a house with a haunted pool; at first it appears to have healing qualities, but there's a price to be paid. Violence is the biggest issue, with a possessed man smacking a teen girl, sending her flying across a room and yanking out her hair. He also grabs a woman by the throat and lifts her up in the air. You can also expect many jump-scares, some injuries and blood, a character being beaten with a baseball bat, people grabbed by monstrous hands, characters in danger of drowning, ghostly figures, kids in peril, etc. A character dies by suicide. Adults kiss, and teens flirt and kiss briefly. Language includes infrequent use of "s--t," "dips--t," "damn," "oh my God," "barf bag," "idiot," etc. "P---y" is used to refer to a cat. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .
Where to Watch
Videos and photos.
- Parents say (1)
- Kids say (1)
Based on 1 parent review
What's the Story?
In NIGHT SWIM, Ray Waller ( Wyatt Russell ) is a former third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers who's been diagnosed with M.S. Seeking a place to settle down, Ray; his wife, Eve ( Kerry Condon ); their teen daughter, Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle); and their younger son, Elliot (Gavin Warren) find a beautiful house with a swimming pool in the backyard. Since Ray's doctor has recommended water therapy, it seems too good to be true. And, indeed, it's not long before Ray seems to be getting better. But the kids and Eve experience strange events in the water, including being grabbed by monstrous hands and seeing strange, ghostly figures. After a disastrous pool party, it becomes clear that something is really wrong. Eve starts hunting for the source of the haunting, while Ray begins acting increasingly strangely.
Is It Any Good?
Its premise is so ridiculous that it might have become a silly camp classic, but this horror movie is presented totally seriously, with no real scares -- and no awareness of its silliness. There have been movies about haunted beds and motorcycles, about possessed trucks and tomatoes; the haunted swimming pool in Night Swim is just as preposterous as any of them. And yet director/co-writer Bryce McGuire -- who based the movie on his own four-minute short -- crams it all into a generic horror formula, complete with dumb jump-scares and an answer-seeking visit to the previous haunting victims.
The movie doesn't even have any consistency in its rules. The water itself is supposedly haunted, and yet, the pool is filled with gory-faced monsters, as well as sweet-faced ghosts of the innocent souls it's claimed, and all of them are capable of grabbing unsuspecting swimmers. There's also a swirling black goo that seems to be responsible for something. There's competent acting by Russell and Oscar nominee Condon ( The Banshees of Inisherin ), and they help conjure some genuine moments of family interaction, but the more absurd things get, the less you're likely to care. By the end of this not-scary chiller, Night Swim has gone right down the drain.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Night Swim 's violence . How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
Is the movie scary ? What's the appeal of horror movies? Why do people enjoy being scared?
What does "there's no such thing as a free lunch" mean? How does the movie try to demonstrate this saying?
Some characters insist that "love requires sacrifice." Is this true? Why, or why not?
If you could wish for something via the movie's magical waters -- which would require someone to die -- would you do it? What would you wish for?
- In theaters : January 5, 2024
- Cast : Wyatt Russell , Kerry Condon , Amelie Hoeferle
- Director : Bryce McGuire
- Inclusion Information : Latino directors, Multiracial directors, Female actors
- Studios : Universal , Blumhouse Productions
- Genre : Horror
- Topics : Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time : 98 minutes
- MPAA rating : PG-13
- MPAA explanation : terror, some violent content and language
- Last updated : January 4, 2024
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‘Night Swim’ Review: Hold Your Breath, Forever
The backyard pool is a symbol of love and of terror in this uneven but scary horror film.
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By Alissa Wilkinson
Hollywood horror often attempts to work out collective anxiety about the suburbs, that place full of pleasant-looking houses creaking with ghosts and terrors. Suburban life is, admittedly, fundamentally strange, with neighborhoods full of atomized worlds and natural features turned into individual, highly-controlled assets. A forest becomes manicured bushes. A lake becomes a pool.
Pools are ubiquitous across the American suburbs (just peek out the window when you fly), and the affluence, comfort and fun they represent can turn a middling kid into the most popular one at school, at least during the hot months. They are also ubiquitous in horror, from “ Gremlins ” to that greatest instance of suburban anxiety, “ Poltergeist .” For the Waller family of “Night Swim,” the pool means freedom, friends and a new lease on life. But pools can also be deadly (accidental drowning is the No. 1 killer of young children ), so the pleasure comes with an edge, a fact the Waller family are about to learn.
Ray Waller (Wyatt Russell) is a former major-league baseball player, a real slugger, whose multiple sclerosis has taken him out of the game. His wife, Eve (Kerry Condon), is eager to finally settle down, proving a lasting home for their two children: breezy teenage Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle) and Elliot (Gavin Warren), who struggles more than his sister to fit in with other kids. They find an old house outside the Twin Cities, fall in love, and buy it, then commence cleaning out the gloppy, unused pool in the backyard. It becomes an oasis. And for a while, the pool seems to be helping Ray get better.
But this is a horror film, so the Wallers cannot have nice things and, unfortunately, neither can we. “Night Swim” is the feature debut of Bryce McGuire, produced by the horror mavens James Wan and Jason Blum and based on McGuire’s 2014 short film. (A tidbit too odd to ignore: that short was filmed in the musician Michelle Branch’s backyard pool.) The first half of the movie is remarkably effective, especially if you’ve ever had a pool, and especially if you’ve swam in it at night, though lots of “Night Swim” happens during the day. Jumps abound, and a scene with Izzy and her crush is especially terrifying.
But it goes downhill at some point. The inciting concept is so strong — the pool, to rephrase the meme , that makes you dead — that all additions after a certain point start to feel like overkill. The strongest horror concepts are spare and uncluttered: something is chasing you, something is thumping under the bed. They tap into an anguish that is fundamental and gut-level, a level way lower than your head.
The problem with “Night Swim” is that it’s trying to say a little too much, which isn’t a complete pleasure-killer, but can get distracting. It’s partly a movie about a primal fear of the water, and that’s where it’s most effective. (In the grand tradition of “Jaws,” I anticipate a few viewers being hesitant about dipping a toe in next summer.) But other horror tropes pop up here and there — the “Indian burial ground,” the sick kid — themes surfacing in an ungainly manner. It’s a movie about the dark side of ambition and the true nature of sacrifice; also family favoritism, and illness, and maybe hell? By the end I wasn’t really sure, and the general goofiness that emerges in the third act undercuts the emotional resonance it’s going for.
McGuire clearly has the chops and the imagination for horror, so I’m excited to see what he does next. And for a winter horror release — typically a great time to go to the movie theater, munch popcorn and get your pants scared off — it does the job. In fact, pool owners should be glad it’s a January release. You’ll have a few months to let the dread wear off. Maybe.
Night Swim Rated PG-13 for scariness and children in peril. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. In theaters.
Alissa Wilkinson is a Times movie critic. She’s been writing about movies since 2005. More about Alissa Wilkinson
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Owen Wilson's 3 Kids: All About Ford, Finn and Lyla
Owen Wilson has two sons and one daughter
Lynsey Eidell is a contributing writer at PEOPLE. She has been working at PEOPLE since 2022. Her work has previously appeared in GLAMOUR, Vanity Fair, Teen Vogue, Allure and more.
Owen Wilson may be one of Hollywood's most famous bachelors — but he is also a dad.
The actor is a father of three children: sons Ford and Finn, and daughter Lyla.
He welcomed his first child, a son named Ford, in January 2011 with then-girlfriend Jade Duell. Three years later, in January 2014, Wilson had a second son, Finn, with trainer Caroline Lindqvist. In October 2018, a source confirmed to PEOPLE that Wilson also fathered a daughter named Lyla with Varunie Vongsvirates.
Though Wilson is not in a relationship with any of his children's mothers, the actor revealed to Esquire in 2021 that he lives nearby his two sons and everyone "gets along."
"Sometimes it feels like I'm already seeing how they're gonna be as teenagers," Wilson told Ellen DeGeneres about life with his boys Ford and Finn. "Where they're gonna be ganging up on me."
While prepping for his role as a Bob Ross-like artist in the 2023 movie Paint , Wilson told PEOPLE that he and his two sons took an art class together. " I took one of those Bob Ross painting classes with my two boys," he said. "All three of us did a similar mountainscape and I think they turned out pretty good."
Here's everything to know about the actor's three children: Ford, Finn and Lyla.
Robert Ford Wilson, 12
Wilson and his then-girlfriend Duell revealed they were expecting a child in January 2011. Just days later, on Jan. 14, 2011, the couple of more than a year welcomed their son Robert Ford Wilson in Hawaii. Wilson and Duell chose to call their son by his middle name, Ford, because it was "original," the actor told E! in 2013.
"It seems surreal that this tiny human being is now here — and I'm thinking about all the great adventures he has ahead of him," Wilson told Parents magazine shortly after his son's birth.
As a first-time dad, Wilson was quickly enamored with his newborn son. When Ford was just 6 weeks old, the actor told Jay Leno that he was already "a little scene stealer" — despite not even being able to talk.
"He's not, I wouldn't say, a wonderful conversationalist at this point, but he kind of doesn't have to be, he's so cute," Wilson said on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno .
The Marley and Me star also embraced fatherhood head-on, changing diapers right from the beginning — despite having no prior experience with babies.
"Changing a flat tire is much harder. I thought changing diapers was going to be challenging, but from the first day, I jumped right into it ," Wilson told Parents . "I have my whole system down and I'm able to just knock it out. I sort of surprised myself by being a fairly adept dad."
As Ford grew older, Wilson marveled at his fearless, daredevil personality. In a June 2017 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show , he told the talk show host how Ford was already giving him a run for his money at just 6 years old.
"Ford seems like he might even be a little stunt man in training ," Wilson said, while sharing a video of his eldest child doing a belly flop into a pool off of a diving board. "He's a big Jackie Chan fan."
And it seems that his older son has inherited his comedic abilities. "Anything Ford says is just the funniest thing ever," Wilson told DeGeneres. "And I can make a joke and it's, like, crickets."
Finn Lindqvist Wilson, 9
In October 2013, it was revealed that Wilson was expecting a second son with his one-time personal trainer Caroline Lindqvist. The two were not a couple and the pregnancy was "not planned," a source told PEOPLE — but Wilson and Lindqvist were "both excited."
"They are not living together, but Owen is involved," the source told PEOPLE. "He comes to doctor's appointments and makes sure Caroline is doing well."
On Jan. 30, 2014, Wilson's second son, Finn Lindqvist Wilson, was born in Los Angeles. The father of two revealed in an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that Ford, who was 3 when Finn was born, took to being a big brother right away.
"Ford is very, kind of protective of his, he always calls him — he doesn't even call him by his name, he always calls him his baby brother," Wilson told DeGeneres . "I think he likes the fact that he's just about 30 pounds, but that Finn is smaller."
And the feeling was mutual: As they have grown up, Wilson shared that Finn idolized his older brother. The actor joked with DeGeneres that Finn's nickname was "Me Too," because of how much he wanted to be like his big brother Ford.
Lyla Aranya Wilson, 5
Wilson became a father of three when Varunie Vongsvirates gave birth to a baby girl named Lyla Aranya Wilson on Oct. 9, 2018. The little girl weighed 6 lbs., 13 oz., and measured 21 inches, a source told PEOPLE. Vongsvirates gave Lyla her Thai middle name to honor her father's heritage.
Vongsvirates announced Lyla's birth on Instagram : "My sweet little princess 💝 Lyla Aranya Wilson, born on 10-09-18," she captioned her baby girl's first photo. She's continued to share photos of Lyla on her social media over the years, calling the 5-year-old her "wild child."
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