So I decided to do this Album Look Back similar to the one for last week, where I go back and listen to an album that I didn’t have very strong positive feelings about. This time I’m tackling Daniel Caesar’s CASE STUDY 01 (2019). I FINALLY received my Freudian (2017) vinyl on Monday, and I remembered having some slightly unsavory feelings about CASE STUDY 01. So I figured I should give it another listen to see if my feelings changed.
I listen to it the first time on the train going back to Poughkeepsie from New York City, around the time it came out last year. If I’m not mistaken, I was coming from Georgia and moving back to Poughkeepsie to start work at my current job, so I was on my little 9 hour excursion through NYC. I love listening to music on the Metro North, so I figured since I had nothing else to do, I could listen to Daniel’s album with no distractions. And I remember being relatively underwhelmed compared to how I felt after listening to Freudian.
I talked a little bit about Freudian on a MFOAT. It’s absolutely one of the most beautiful and well-made albums I’ve ever heard in my life. Every song on there is perfectly crafted, and you can tell Daniel really took his time creating it. So I had high hopes for CASE STUDY 01, after loving Freudian so much. I don’t remember my exact reactions after listening to every song individually on CS01, but I do remember not feeling the overwhelming need to listen to the project again. Actually, I wouldn’t end up listening to the project again until today LOL. I remember originally thinking that it wasn’t a bad project, but there was nothing special about it and nothing that drew me in the way that Freudian did. And unfortunately, i’m leaving the second listen with the same feelings. And I was really hoping that I wasn’t.
I do think overall, that it’s a really really solid project. It’s actually a great project. It’s well-rounded, the production is amazing, and Daniel sounds beautiful as usual. And I do have some favorites! I hadn’t been feeling the musical butterflies until the second half of the project where “SUPERPOSITION” and “TOO DEEP TO TURN BACK” brought me back into the same feelings that I had while listening to Freudian. I couldn’t believe that those two songs existed in real life LOL – they’re just that good. I love the instrumental on “TOO DEEP TO TURN BACK” so so much. “ARE YOU OK?” was another song that I thought was really impressive; the second half of the song is perfection. Ooh, that instrumental break to the end is g o d l y.
And I think another thing I really like about this project was that Daniel took the opportunity on his second full-length project to be a little experimental. I think it’s easy to have a success like he did with Freudian and just copy that same formula over again for the sake of having another highly successful project. But I do think that it’s important for an artist to have those moments of experimentation early on in their career so that they aren’t placing themselves in a box too soon. It gives them the opportunity to try out different stuff while they’re still fresh and motivated to really stretch their creative wings in ways that they weren’t able to before. So even though we didn’t get a Freudian 2.0 like I wanted, I really liked what he was able to do with it. I did have to turn “RESTORE THE FEELING” off, though. Sean Leon has a part in the song where he stretches his vocals in ways he shouldn’t have stretched them, and because that part happens pretty early in the song, it threw me off so much that I had to turn the whole song off LOL. But other than that moment, I had no problems with the album.
But what I will get into is something that I mentioned a little bit in the MFOAT for Freudian. Which is that I FEEL Daniel did fall into a little bit of a sophomore slump with this project. And it’s not his fault, it’s really kind of our faults for hyping him up so much at the beginning LOL. This album – for me – really just didn’t reach Freudian levels at all. Not even in terms of quality. I think the fact that I can still find CASE STUDY 01 vinyls and not Freudian vinyls is pretty clear evidence of that. And like I mentioned before Freudian was just such a monster of a project, that the planets and the stars literally have to be aligned for that magic to happen again. And Daniel had that success RIGHT at the BEGINNING of his career – it was what introduced us to him. And everything that he makes from now on will always be compared to Freudian. Regardless of how solid that other project is, which is what happened with CS01. Taken by itself, the project is great. For anybody else, it would be a Grammy-winning project, and I mean that wholeheartedly. There are some missteps in my eyes on the project (I mentioned the Sean Leon moment, but also I wasn’t a big fan of Pharrell on “FRONTAL LOBE MUZIK.” Pharrell has had better features and better hooks, and I didn’t really like the auto-tune on Daniel’s voice towards the second half of the song. The production was solid, but everything around it was off). But literally other than those few (really FEW) moments, the project is GOOD.
And I also, again, wanna stress that experimental piece. I think, without being in Daniel Caesar’s head, this project achieved what it was supposed to achieve. And that was that it gave Danny an opportunity for to do things different from what he did on Freudian, while also recognizing the different place that he is in his life. I think this is a similar situation to the response The Weeknd got with Kiss Land (2013). A pretty good amount of OG Weeknd fans didn’t really like Kiss Land that much compared to Trilogy (2012). Even with After Hours (2020) – an album that dropped almost a DECADE after Trilogy and the original mixtapes came out – there were some longtime Weeknd fans who really don’t enjoy the project at all cause it wasn’t Trilogy, despite Abel on being in the same frame of mind or the same place in his life that he was in when he was making Trilogy. And it’s the same with Abel’s other projects; taking away the expectations that Trilogy set, After Hours, Beauty Behind the Madness (2015), Kiss Land, and Starboy (2016) are, undoubtedly, great projects. At some point – hopefully lol – he will have made music long enough for people to think of Trilogy is just being a phase. I think this is the same with Freudian and Daniel. I think right now, Danny is such a new artist and made Freudian so early that it’s hard to not look back at that project and say “what would happen if Danny made another one of these?” But taken out of the shadow of Freudian, CASE STUDY 01 can stand on its own.
So, I’m left with this: I thought CASE STUDY 01 was a solid project (despite my disappointment lol) the first time I heard it, and I think it’s a solid project now. I love Daniel taking the time to do something different with this project. It truly was a case study in learning how to not live in the shadow of your own work. But I don’t know how much I’ll be revisiting this project. Nothing struck me on this project as daily rotation level, but I am glad that I gave this album another opportunity. And I hope that Danny continues to do spread his creative wings more and more on every project that he makes from now on.
I’ll be glad to see what comes of it.
Featured Image Credit: https://genius.com/album_cover_arts/362211, edited by me 🙂
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I actually have zero idea how I found out about Daniel Caesar’s music. I do remember at some point I watch the video for “Get You” and fell in love with it and Daniel’s voice almost immediately. I think that was around the February before he released the Freudian (2017). The production, Daniel’s voice…it really … Continue reading My Favorite’s of All Time #12: Daniel Caesar’s ‘Freudian’