Allen Haley Feels Truly Authentic on ‘You Don’t Know What’s Next' [EP Review]

Vincent Merry

You Don't Know What's Next is the phrase that Allen Haley has been emphasizing for over a year now, and it has materialized in a 6-track EP featuring 3 previously released singles and 3 brand-new tracks. Philadelphia-native Allen Haley stormed onto the indie-pop-hip-hop-R&B-etc... scene in early 2022 with '"TAKEN BACK" (my most-listened-to song of the entire year!). He brought a fresh sound that combines elements of Dominic Fike, Justin Timberlake, and other genre-bending artists.

Now that we finally have You Don't Know What's Next, the question is, does it live up to the hype?

The EP kicks off with "TAKEN BACK," which still sounds as sleek as it did when it was released. "I don't mind, you can stay the night / We can waste this time, we can do just that." "TAKEN BACK" feels incredibly personal, DIY, and homegrown, which explains why this track brought Haley so much success. We're quickly introduced to "Come On Back," throwing us into a 2000s soundscape with punchy drums and guitar plucks. Although the verse vocals might feel a bit understated for a song as groovy as this, Allen delivers another incredibly catchy chorus.

Track 3 is "Walking Blind," and it's a noticeable change of pace from the first two tracks. On the production side, "Walking Blind" feels significantly more spacious, with more reverb and echo, creating an ethereal atmosphere throughout the song. This track showcases one of his most impressive songwriting moments: "Don't know the answers / Rules don't apply my love." Allen doesn't let us forget his ability to find a rhythmic pocket and paint a vivid picture for the listener: "She flips through her TV shows, thinking deep about how deep this hole goes / Goes to class but doesn't learn at all, got a job that doesn't pay real dough."

"'Wishes" sees Haley experimenting with more synth-focused production. The pitch-shifted vocals on this track are reminiscent of Dominic Fike and BROCKHAMPTON, while the instrumental palette feels borderline lo-fi. Although Allen delivers another catchy chorus (though it's my least favorite among the four), "Wishes" seems to lack the vivid, picture-painting lyrics of the three previous tracks.

"Home" immediately brings to mind a mix between Arden Jones, one of Allen's close collaborators, and Nic D. This song is significantly more commercial and polished than any other track on the project, feeling like it could be heard in a 2000s teenage rom-com. While the chorus may not be as catchy as many other hooks on the project, Allen's lyrical ability shines through here: "These moments fade, but the feelings stay." While I can appreciate the polished, perfect, pop song approach here, I think Allen is better suited for a track with a bit more edge.

"House of Gold" closes out the EP, taking the most mellow approach of any song. The acoustic guitar, thick bass, and soulful drums create a phenomenal backdrop, allowing Haley the space to vent: "In a house that's made of gold, keep breaking down each wall." Singing choruses and rap verses feel perfectly at home for Allen on "House of Gold," making it the ideal outro for the project.

You Don't Know What's Next provides a true showcase of who Allen Haley is. He isn't making music for money or fame; he consistently shows love to his team, his family, his friends, and his fans. This EP feels genuine, authentic, and true in every possible way. 

No fluff, no filler, just Allen Haley.

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