Review: Leon Thomas’ ‘Electric Dusk’ Is A Beautifully Flawed Cinema We All Need To Grab Tickets For


With the release of Leon Thomas’ new debut album, ‘Electric Dusk,’ featuring the standout single “Breaking Point,” it is evident that the multi-hyphenated entertainer is ready for his musical legacy to supersede his silver screen success. Read contributing writer Flisadam Pointer’s full review of the project below.

Leon Thomas III is a man of many talents. At the forefront of his lengthy professional resume is an incredible range of acting credits, including Nick Jr.’s animated series The Backyardigans, Nickelodeon’s Victorious, (formerly HBO) Max’s Insecure, and the 2017 film Detroit. For most, Thomas’ on-screen work is about the extent to which they are familiar with his creative capabilities. However, thanks to a growing social media awareness campaign launched by fans, the multi-hyphenated entertainer’s contributions to bigger acts such as Drake and former Victorious co-star Ariana Grande’s music as a writer, producer, or instrumentalist are slowly being acknowledged. 

Respectfully, Thomas’ solo work, including 2018’s Genesis, is nothing to scuff at. But, it is evident that with the release of his new debut album, Electric Dusk, Thomas is ready for his musical legacy to supersede his silver screen success. The project, titled after Los Angeles’ longest-running outdoor drive-in movie, is a beautifully flawed cinema that we all need to grab tickets for. 

Although the enticing storytelling is mudded at times by the jumbled sequencing, and Thomas’ profound lyricism only pops in on occasion, Electric Dusk emphasizes that he is indeed a music prodigy. From the weaving of artificial and natural instrumentation, incorporation of sonic elements traditionally viewed as out of R&B’s wheelhouse, and how the body of work is mixed, it is unmistakable that Thomas has gathered bits of knowledge from every room he has ever occupied. The album sounds familiar in the sense that it contains microcosms of everything R&B lovers have already heard, but somehow, it still manages to excite. 

On Electric Dusk, Thomas’ thematic narration shines bright; he runs the gambit of emotions, bringing the listener in at each jaded stop, delivering the most expansive take from the man’s perspective on the state of today’s romance market. 

If listeners expected an album full of tracks similar to the standout single, “Breaking Point,” they were in for a rude awakening. By classification, Electric Dusk is an R&B project. At the same time, by tossing in flairs of psychedelic rock, free jazz, and, of course, hip-hop, Thomas refused to take the easy way out, challenging himself to build beyond beautiful ballads. 

Initially, seeing Benny The Butcher’s name listed as a guest feature on the song “X-Rated,” concerns were raised. Knowing Benny’s dismissal of feelings in his own works, you ask yourself could the pair deliver a cohesive record? Shockingly, not only did the ridged rapper peel back layers of his tough exterior; he also flung one of the album’s four critical emotional concepts into play – empathy. 

Produced by Axl Folie, Ali Roots, tizhimself, the methodically paced bassline and cold vocals on “X-Rated,” served as a military-like bugle call for men to question the role they’ve played in the rise of the bad b*tch epidemic. As Thomas sings, “I don’t even know what to call it / But you’re a borderline young alcoholic / Oh, it’s always a good time, even on a Wednesday night / You be front line, even let my homeboy try,” he turns his nose up at a young woman he’s let into his space. Later, Thomas’ take is countered when Benny rapped, “How y’all calling women hoes that y’all ain’t never touch / Smart paper, big eagles, of course they gon’ rather us / When you try to impress women, that sh*t just don’t measure up / Soon as you get a scent of it, probably gon’ think she innocent / No kids, and a college degree, see, that’s what she get ’em with / After one date, she give you a taste, look, now you spending it / Get a bag out you, maybe some cash and that’s the end of it,” in layman’s terms, you are what you attract. 

Theoretically, Thomas’ search for a “good girl,” shouldn’t have landed him in these circumstances. Therefore, measured by the same standards, he shouldn’t have been there either let alone partaking in the same behaviors. “X-Rated” is a societal case study on gendered behavioral expectations where co-writers Aliandro Prawl, Axl Folie, Gerard A. Powell II, and Lazaro Camejo create space for Thomas to check his misogynist outlook at the velvet rope of VIP. 

The first half of Electric Dusk, specifically the cluster of tracks “Blue Hundreds,” “Love Jones” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, and “Sneak” is where Thomas works through his feelings of desiring love, the entrapment of lust, and the numbness of indifference. Of the three and the album cover, “Blue Hundreds,” is by far the most experimental. Produced entirely by Thomas, “Blue Hundreds” constructs a bridge for psychedelic rock guitar licks, sharp bass stings, and free jazz formation to co-exist on one track. His hyper-fixation on the genre-bending instrumentation is a massive payoff that essentially fills in for where the song lacks lyrically. Contrarily, “Sneak,” which was co-produced by Coleman, Don Mills, and Ninetyfour, sticks to the standard melodic rap flow. On the other hand, the messaging in “Sneak” stands shoulders above the previously mentioned songs. Yet again, Thomas finds himself wrapped up in the spirit of hypocrisy as he brags about his willingness to play number two in her lover’s life. At one point, taking it as far to coach his beau how to hide their dealings, singing, “Bored at the crib, she tryna pipe / Always down for an afternoon delight / But I can never crash and spend the night / Save my number as one of your girls / I know your n****s is too insecure / You way too fine for this big city / It ain’t his fault and it really ain’t yours / So let’s f*ck on this furniture like it is yours.” 

Thomas keeps himself, like far too many people, distracted by the wrong ones when they could be out searching for their last one. As fun as the pursuit of the forbidden is, it only leads to one place, on the dangerous corner of harm’s way. For Thomas songs, “My Will,” “Breaking Point,” “Crash & Burn,” and “Fade To Black” all represent his dealings with distress also known as when you f*cked around and found out. Without question “Breaking Point,” again produced by Coleman and Don Mills, the crowned jewel of Electric Dusk is where Thomas’ actions and past carelessness catch up to him. 

“Thoughts runnin’ through my head / How bad can it get? / No, I’m not the type of man to run off on a bet / Showed my full hand, rip my plans for you / What am I goin’ through? / What are we goin’ through? / Our love is my only proof / That this is what I’m supposed to do,” sings Thomas. From the dramatically drawn-out music intro, soft strokes of the piano, gut-wrenching vocal delivery, complimentary bass, silky harmonies, and masterful songwriting “Breaking Point” is peak R&B. In a sea of two-minute and 30-second tracks, “Breaking Point” being nearly twice that run time asserts that ​​Thomas is in no rush to get through this pain. Admittingly selfish, instead of the original recording, for the sake of narrative building the remix featuring Victoria Monét would have pushed skyrocketed this point of the album. Adding in the woman’s outlook could have created a much-needed dimension.

After his fall from love’s grace, nearing the album’s close, Thomas’ phase of disgust sets in. On “Socialite,” written and produced by Axl Morgan and Thomas, he’s thrown out of the warmth of companionship into the pit fires of desirability. Calling back to “X-Rated,” on this track is going along to get along. Entangled in his fetishization of racially ambiguous women, pedestalled by today’s beauty standards, Thomas seemingly by impulsive is tied into another transactional situationship. “Sometimes you dip and take trips and come back richer / I know I’m cool but you keep treatin’ me like I’m a dumb n**** / Connect the dots and I might cut you out the big picture / But you so fine it makes me just forget and f*ck with you / You got chuggin’ ’42 like I don’t care ’bout my liver / I’m not myself when I’m with you,” sings Thomas. The mere mirage of temporary comfort after sulking in depression’s dark enclosement has a firm grip on Thomas until the mundane reality begins to chip away at the fantasy.

Somehow, through it all, Thomas found his needle in a haystack. “Treasure In The Hills,” written and produced by Peter Lee Johnson, Sapphire Adizes, and Thomas is where he takes his premature victory lap. “Play by the rules / But I’d rather do something naughty / Let’s find a room / Inside this after party / Been on a hunt, found what I want / Found what I want in you,” sings Thomas after if he hasn’t learned this lesson already. Production-wise, “Treasure In The Hills,” and “Sneak” share a ton of similarities. Based on the surrounding stories it wouldn’t be a stretch if they were two sides of the same tragic coin. As the closing track, listeners are hoping for the best as Thomas’ optimism is the central focus of the record. Although you may question his logic, on Electric Dusk, Thomas is forthright at each turn from each empathy, apathy, and sympathy checkpoint.

From the weaving of artificial and natural instrumentation, incorporation of sonic elements traditionally viewed as out of R&B’s wheelhouse, and how the body of work is mixed, Thomas is an expert ethnomusicologist. Though it would be disingenuous to call Thomas’ songwriting into question, Electric Dusk, will leave you wondering if he can consistently measure up when it comes to his own solo works. “Breaking Point” is now his standard. By all technical means, Electric Dusk is a stellar body of work. However, when compared to projects like Jazmine Sullivan’s project Heaux Tales, and Lucky Daye’s Table For Two, Thomas still has a ways to go when it comes to streamlining his works. 

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