Equal parts artist and businessman, Tai Verdes has carefully curated his image to look like a super cool guy. His genre music, best described as chamber hip-hop with a touch of pop, features a mix of rap and spoken word, which work in perfect harmony to create his laid-back love songs. Appropriately named, Verdes’ second album HDTV (2022) improves the quality of its fun and groovy debut, TV (2021).
Although his two albums are musically and thematically light, Verdes elevates HDTV by experimenting with new sounds. While the burden of musicality in TV was placed almost entirely on Verdes’ airy vocals, HDTV benefits from a complete instrumentation from an orchestral and synthetic accompaniment. He also demonstrates more vocal power in singing and rapping, imbuing this album with more lively energy.
Verdes is as concerned with personal branding as it is with artistic evolution. When Hunger asked why people like his music, Verdes replied, “It’s not about who likes your music, but whether artists market themselves in a way that would express longevity.” HDTV definitely leans into his sweet brand. The seemingly random capitalization and missing letters of the track titles (“100sadsongs”, “On U”, “Shut up”) give the album a messy feel, despite being conscious choices.
This laid-back vibe also translates to Verdes’ effortless flow between genres. Hip-hop, rock, pop and R&B blend into each other, and HDTV capitalizes on this to create a distinct listening experience from track to track.
The album opens with triumphant horns, followed by low, funky guitar as Verdes whispers the introductory lyrics to “Kingdom Come.” On the next song, “Last day on Earth”, the horns reappear as Verdes describes the little things he would appreciate more if he only had one day left, such as “buzzin’ bees” and “evergreen trees”. That is, until he gets to the bridge and expresses his desire to fly in a private jet and buy an expensive car – with only 24 hours to live, who wouldn’t want those things?
That’s what makes Verdes’ music so addictive: it’s not only musically fun, but also lyrically light, perfect for dancing and singing. Her love songs don’t make grand declarations or philosophical assertions, but savor the pleasures of everyday life together. On “sheluvme”, Verdes simply states that it’s okay to be him because “she” loves him.
“I write songs based on my experiences and I think that’s what a lot of people feel about my music,” Verdes said. Hunger on songwriting. “I don’t write songs about something I make up.” Many of these experiences are universal, whether you’ve been in love before or are feeling it for the first time. His single “Stuck in the Middle”, which he released on TikTok in 2020 and was included on TVdescribes a friends-to-lovers situation spiraling out of control as one thing leads to another.
Two years later, one of the flagship titles of HDTV is a polished version of the song that catapulted him onto the music scene. “how deep is it?” begins with the lyrics, “It always starts with a ‘Hey’ / Turns into ‘How was your day?’ / Turns into ‘Meet at my place’,” and continues that domino effect of romantic entanglement. Through the chorus, Verdes realizes he may be in over his head as he sings, “How I Am “posed to know how deep I would fall? … I didn’t want to take that leap, my fault.” Like “Stuck in the middle”, “how deep?” is a lively piece despite expressing doubts about a relationship, but what sets this one apart is its musicality. Backed by heavy drums and light guitar strumming, Verdes has more opportunities to show off his flow rather than his ability to carry a melody.
The juxtaposition between “Stuck in the Middle” and “how deep?” talks about the development of Verdes’ sound on HDTV– there’s a lot more confidence in every choice he makes. On TV, high-energy attempts resulted in half-baked songs with shallow vocals and instrumentation that often fell flat. This time around, the fun songs are more powerful, pairing upbeat lyrics with a danceable melody. On “TWO SUGARS,” the sound matches the all-caps title with overdriven guitars, a powerful drum beat, and layered vocals.
Verdes’ wide array of vocal skills, including a steady stream of witty rapping and lyricism, contribute to the blood-pump musicality. Verdes’ rap is in full swing on “don’t touch!” Backed only by a whimsical piano and drum beat, his lyrics drive the song forward and keep it energetic. His signature spoken-sung sounds more refined, masterfully showcasing his one-of-a-kind tone. On “Let’s go to Hell,” the album’s biggest adrenaline rush, Verdes sings a catchy chorus over fast-paced guitar and handclaps, but raps the verses. When it reaches this rate, it is clear that the instrumentation is following its lead, not the other way around.
An exemplary execution of the relaxing love song is the track “3 Outfits”. It starts with a distorted guitar and a few whimsical high notes, ending abruptly as Verdes’ raspy vocals enter, backed by a funky synth and cymbals. Singing about folding laundry and crocheting, he describes love as the key to making the mundane less miserable.
Some tracks are more downcast, demonstrating Verdes’ ability for content depth. On “Lost Myslf”, he sings that it’s “hard enough to breathe in real life / Been to hell and back, no, I can’t relax”; on “FYL”, he laments compromising his values for a relationship. But even in these songs, Verdes maintains a laid-back sound by pairing the lyrics with upbeat throwback and avoiding drawing apocalyptic conclusions from the difficulties.
Unfortunately, the 20-track album falls flat in places, likely due to its length. Verdes’ attempt at an emotional love song with “morning hour” comes across as sickening and a bit cringe-worthy. “Clyde & Bonnie” and “superpowers” could be described as retail music; that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad, but they might get stuck in your head to the point of annoying you.
Despite some hiccups, HDTV uses its length to demonstrate a wide range of vocal and instrumental skills. If Verdes continues to outdo himself like this, he’ll be in 4K by the next album.