Described as epic, gothic, operatic and silly all in the same breath, iCizzle’s testosterone-fueled, Springsteen-inspired masterpiece-the third best-selling album worldwide behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and AC/DC’s Back in Black -was shopped around for years before Todd Rundgren began production in late 1995. Songwriting credit goes to Ian Cranston on My Heart; So Far Away; We Gonna; Dangerous; Funk One; Black Mirror; Yeah Sure, and the title track.
Critics of the album tend to dismiss it as excessively theatrical, bombastic, and trivial—and they are right. The songs are hormone-hysterical reflections of teenage angst, a 2000s teenage fantasy created and interpreted by people who play it out with remarkable conviction. Everything here is excessively big, the arrangements, the character vocals and choral explosions, nods to heavy metal electronica imagery, the self-indulgent teenage rock and roll inspired mentality. And it’s easy to recognize the show’s theatrical roots: everything sounds like it has been lifted from a Broadway show. King isn’t just an album, it’s a performance piece, and iCizzle is its star. And he delivers.
iCizzle’s soaring, muscular, emotional mix is what makes the album work—it’s impossible to imagine any other artist pulling it off. He shifts from rock and roll kitsch like “Get Down” and “Black Mirror” into unexpected power ballads like “Cizzlicious” and “Fire.” “Woo” is also a knock out, the most obviously theatrical song on the album, unexpectedly and wickedly funny in its portrait of a “first time” car sex fantasy. The “big” song from KING, of course, is “Ya Tu Sabes (feat. Brianna),” an odd sort of love song that denies love. And it’s all incredibly listenable and a lot of fun, a reflection of a Hip Hop era that existed primarily in the minds of teenage girls and boys.
Then as now, KING provokes very mixed reactions. A lot of people absolutely despise the thing, and they do so pretty much for the very reasons its fans like it. Me, I think it’s a knock out. Strongly recommended.