Photos: Amanda Charchian

He’s so precious when he cries: Why Bazzi is so much more than a great meme

He’s the artist who launched a million memes and over a billion streams. Sam Brooks picks out Bazzi’s best moments so far, from his career-making breakthrough to his mature new mixtape Soulsearching.

1. ‘Mine’

“You’re so precious when you smile.”

It’s the line – including an extra word that we can’t print here – which didn’t just launch a million memes, it launched an entire career (and six hundred million streams to boot). And let’s be honest, as first lines go, that one is a killer.

But it helps Bazzi tremendously that ‘Mine’ is not just a very good song, but a great statement of purpose – with a delivery that oscillates easily between staccato raps and R&B runs, it shows him off as a disarmingly earnest, even sweet, guy who knows his way around a hook. If One Direction happened about a decade later, this is what their music would sound like.

It’s no wonder this song got as huge as it did. While I’m sure the memes helped, there’s something that’s effortlessly universal about a two minute song whose lyrics sound like they could be whispered into a shitty iPhone speaker and sent as a voice memo to your current beau. When you add the expansive, dark Pure Heroine-esque production onto it, you’ve got a winner.

And while it’s that opening line that sealed the deal, I’m a personal fan of: “I’m so happy you’re alive.” Simple, direct, good, brief (the song’s only two minutes, eleven seconds). It’s what I value in my art, it’s what I value in my men.

2. ‘Beautiful’ (feat. Camila Cabello)

The original version of ‘Beautiful’ is good – it’s a voice memo love letter in a similar vein to ‘Mine’ – but add Camila Cabello’s half-cooed, half-rasped vocals and it lifts above the clouds. Since leaving Fifth Harmony (RIP), Cabello has become one of pop music’s most reliable hook-sellers, from Mark Ronson’s underrated ‘Find U Again’ to Major Lazer’s correctly rated ‘Know U Better’, and she delivers just as well when sharing half a track with Bazzi.

Once more, the best parts of the song are the conversational lyrics – the kind of nothings you would actually end up mumbling to somebody at 6am after a long line:

“Oh my God, where did the time go?

I wish the hours would go slow

How is it 6 AM?

Your touch is heaven-sent

Beautiful, beautiful sight right now

Beautiful, beautiful life right now”

On paper, they don’t look like much. But with vocalists as charismatic and immediately recognizable as Bazzi and Cabello (who have a super believable chemistry as well), and the lush production, they achieve something like profundity. They’re immediate, arresting, and honestly? Just plain lovely, you guys! People in love are lovely, that’s just science.

3. ‘I Don’t Even Know You Anymore’ (feat. Netsky and Lil’ Wayne)

Technically this is closer to a Bazzi feature than a Bazzi lead, but this collab with Belgian drum-n-bass legend Netsky and hoof-having legend Lil Wayne goes as hard as a fish down a tube. It’s what I like to dub a Sad Lad Banger™, the kind of song that represents what happens when you and your lad mate are definitely having feelings but don’t know how to healthily express them. So instead you get petulant, you stamp your feet a little, and as Bazzi says, “When you call, I hit ignore.” 

I’m making it sound like the musical equivalent of rocket fuel, but there’s a fratty ebullience between Bazzi and Lil’ Wayne (turning in one of his best guest raps in a while) that sells the whole song. Plus, it’s a showcase that Bazzi can carry a heavier beat if required, and even our Sad Lads™ need bangers of their own.

4. ‘Can We Go Back To Bed?’

There’s one stylistic choice in this song that makes it my favourite cut from Bazzi’s inward-facing, reflective mixtape Soulsearching. Halfway through, after a lightly-spat verse, the curtain lifts on the production and it feels like we’re hearing a direct recording from the inside of the young artist’s head, a little bit of reverb, a little bit of dimming on that high-hat:

I know I’m not Mr. Perfect

I know I left you there hurtin’

I was just focused on workin’

And manifestin’ my purpose

And now I’m beaten and burnin’

You know that you are my person

You know that you are my person

It’s not Proust, but hey, what has Proust done for me lately? Once more, these journal-style lyrics marry with some calculated lush production to nestle themselves in your brain, and bring up those awkward memories of feeling just a little bit inadequate in a relationship. The album is made up of these moodier, slower cuts like this, and it’s a revelation that Bazzi’s flows and no-fuss vocals work as well on these kinds of songs as they do his more upbeat head-over-Vans love songs.

5. ‘Paradise’

It’s 2019, and is any mixtape complete without a song about having the best night of your life, but having it every goddamned Friday night? I say no, and it’s clear that Bazzi agrees.

The recipe is all there: Plucking synth strings, a drop, a singalong chorus, and the occasional bleak lyric just to remind you how the alleged best night of your life can sometimes, just sometimes, be solidly a C+ at best (‘Insecure people turn to insecure lovers’).

Don’t know if it’s the drink I poured

But I swear I’ve never loved you more

When you right here, I come alive

One more hit and we can fly

This shit feel like paradise.

As usual with a Bazzi song, the man himself says it best: “This shit feel like Friday night.” Offices cracking open a beer at 5:01pm at the end of the week agree with you, Bazzi.

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