“The Essential Skill of Staying Stuck” sounds like something I’ve heard before. It’s a nonspecific kind of familiarity; it doesn’t immediately conjure a direct and obvious comparison, not as if it’s outright mimicry of anything. It’s also not necessarily a well-worn kind of familiarity. “Essential Skill” would sound right at home over the speakers in an Urban Outfitters, yet it retains an air of freshness and a subtle element of surprise that keeps it from being a tired cliche. The deep, warm vocals settle into a pleasant lilt during a deftly yet gently rapped verse, and a genuinely pretty melody creeps in towards the end, reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s melancholy songwriting. But it would be a mistake to compare Dangerboy any further to Frank Ocean, or any other similar contemporaries; “Essential Skill” is hypnotically funky, with a driving, head-nodding rhythm that sets them in their own little niche apart from other indie crooners.
But still, it’s a bit of a stretch to consider Dangerboy a category of their own. “Essential Skill” isn’t exactly breaking new sonic ground, and many of the lyrics do unfortunately fall into cliche; “please never do me wrong cause I can’t guarantee how strong I’ll be” is limply typical of post-Drake alternative hip-hop. The production, although it certainly achieves the Cali warmth that Dangerboy was aiming for, falls a bit flat; its minimal change comes across less as a minimalist artistic decision, and more as a side effect of deciding it sounded “good enough” without adding textural variation. Each element of the sound could have benefitted from just a bit more “pop.”
Yet still, the song works- it’s catchy, seriously funky, and above all else, confident. This confidence is absolutely what makes it work, what gives “Essential Skill” its attractiveness and pleasant familiarity despite existing wholly within the alt-hip-hop wheelhouse. Despite falling into a few of the typical traps of inexperienced musicians, Dangerboy honestly don’t sound like amateurs. This is a bold song, made by musicians who have a strong sense of what they’re doing, of their own style and direction. This confidence matters more than anything else, and will help them to find more fans in the future.
- Confident, strong sound
- Warm, pleasant production and vocals
- Catchy and funky
- Cliche lyrics
- Flat instrumentation
- A mouthful of a title