Known for his work on some of the biggest hits of the ‘00s and ‘10s (including Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ and Maroon 5’s ‘Moves Like Jagger’) and addictive pop collaborations (see his Khalid and Halsey-assisted track ‘Eastside’), Virginia’s Benny Blanco has proven time and time again that he has a flawless musical ear. His sensitivity to emotion and ambience was all over his 2018 debut mini-album, the seven-track gem ‘Friends Keep Secrets’.
‘Friends Keep Secrets 2’, which boasts six brand new songs, sees him enlist his real-life music buds for a sonic exploration of life’s ups and downs. Lead single ‘Lonely’, featuring pop sensation Justin Bieber, focuses on the latter. Pulling on your heartstrings, Justin bares all on child stardom and the constant magnifying glass on him. The pain in Beiber’s voice is palpable as he pours his heart out, singing: “’I’ve had everything, but no one’s listening / And that’s just fucking lonely”.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Juice WRLD-fronted ‘Graduation’, which previously appeared on the rapper’s 2019 posthumous album ‘Legends Never Die’. Where Bieber lifted the lid on the price of fame, Juice’s tale is a little closer to home, as he relays the trials and tribulations of school and the marks they leave: “Friends forever (enemies ’til the end).” This sits alongside another posthumous Juice track, the erratic ‘Real Shit’, a more positive song that hits hard in the wake of his death: “Working on my demons I’m in better shape / Demons on my back – get them away from me”.
This jumpy electro trap tune rolls into another posthumous release from the relatable rapper 6 Dogs. Often hiding his messages in between flexes of braggadocio, 6 Dogs broadcast beacons of hope and support to his fans. He continues the theme on ‘Lost’, though sets his positivity to a sound that we’d never heard him on in life: EDM trap. Dogs and Blanco were great friends — the rapper signed to the producer’s Mad Love Records in 2018 — and this is a fittingly beautiful tribute.
Replicating the synergy of ‘Friends Keep Secrets’ with another star-studded cast, ‘Friends Keep Secrets 2’ is another success that puts Blanco’s collaborators’ emotional storytelling at the forefront. Whether you cry your eyes out to break-up anthem ‘You’ (featuring DJ Marshmello and acoustic crooner Vance Joy) or jump around to the zippy, electronic ‘Lost’, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone.
Release date: March 26
Record label: Friends Keep Secrets / Interscope Records