Collaborations are so common in 2020 that, to some extent, they’ve lost the luster they once had in the hearts of listeners; however, even with this being the case, there’s no denying the magic a pair of heavyweights like King Cole and J. Buck can drum up inside of the studio together in the right circumstances. In King Cole’s new single “The Mean Season,” he and J. Buck put together what could be described as one of the more intense funk collaborations of the winter season so far while staying away from the indulgences of a bygone era altogether. Firmly steeped in a post-millennium efficiency that keeps every one of its beats feeling tight and capable of utter destruction if left to their own devices, “The Mean Season” is here to remind us that funk isn’t dead – it’s merely starting its next wave.
The punchiness of the bass in this track is really incredible, and when I first listened to the song I was instantly spellbound with the amount of angst this element of the composition conveyed in stereo sound. King Cole is using tempo to create a mood and an unconventional sway from the melodic instrumentation to break it up with some color and a nod to the R&B of today; the result of this experimentation is a cocktail perfectly suited to millennials and members of the old guard alike. Some might look at this arrangement as a little exaggerated for what the hook calls for, but others like myself will be able to appreciate it for what it is.
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I would be lying if I said the rhythm didn’t do a lot to shape the narrative of the lyrics in this song. There’s so much vibrancy in the way the instruments are brought together in perfect synchronicity that had there been no vocal in the mix at all I still think the emotional output would have felt much the same. J. Buck reads the beat really well when he’s put on the spot, but luckily King Cole never leaves him in too treacherous a situation. They work together as a studio unit, and I actually don’t see why they couldn’t develop an entire album based on material like this piece if given the right resources to do so.
King Cole and J. Buck have made quite the treasure for fans of funk, R&B, and hard soul in “The Mean Season,” and if you haven’t already listened to it as of this review, I think now would be a good time to check it out. I hope to hear these two collaborate together again sometime soon, but regardless of where their individual careers take them from here, I think there’s a chance this track could do a lot to bring them both some increased focus from the press and specifically alternative outlets like college radio. This definitely fits the mold while breaking every rule the establishment would set forth for a modern pop single, and that’s what makes it such an interesting listen.
by Babette Cook