Artemas Paves the Way for Alternative R&B with His Debut Mixtape ‘pretty' [Mixtape Review]

Vincent Merry

Penned, produced, and performed by Artemas, pretty stands as his inaugural full-length release, presented in the form of an alternative R&B mixtape. Following a series of singles in 2023 and a recent surge in popularity on TikTok, it comes as no surprise that Artemas’ distinctive approach to crafting edgy, genre-bending music is now attaining mainstream success.

pretty comprises a robust 13 tracks, clocking in at a surprisingly concise 30 minutes. Despite being well-acquainted with artemas through the release of three previous singles, this new mixtape ensures that we are introduced to his artistry on a deeper level, with each track offering a unique sonic exploration.

The album opens with the compelling single "if u think i'm pretty," blending vocal styles reminiscent of Montell Fish and other soft-spoken alt-R&B singers with an experimental R&B instrumental palette akin to The Weeknd's "House-Of-Balloons" era. Artemas channels his sensual energy into the lyrics, delivering lines such as "Won't you give that shit a rest? / Said you needed love, but you're only here for sex."

"shall we celebrate" establishes that this alt-R&B journey has the legs to sustain an entire album. Distorted guitars, falsetto vocals, and thumping drums converge to create a genre-bending anthem. "too slow" follows closely, showcasing Artemas' ability to seamlessly blend modern hip-hop trap elements with screeching guitars and chopped vocals. Ironically, the song concludes sooner than expected, a recurring theme throughout the record.

"like an angel" provides a change of pace, resembling the lovechild of Dijon, Bruno Mars, and Jesse Rutherford from The Neighbourhood. This track leans more towards the pop spectrum, featuring polished songwriting. "cross my heart" reintroduces primitive, Yeezus-esque drums, with Artemas infusing vocal emotion into poignant lyrics: "Feelin' used, baby, believe me, so am I / Fixed my broken heart so you could break it one more time."

"just want you to feel something" feels like a spiritual successor to "if u think i'm pretty," incorporating auto-tuned vocals and an impressive bridge section. Meanwhile, "please don't humble me" exudes vibes that could be attributed to Jesse Rutherford in an alternate universe, with lyrics like "Fuck you in the backseat, teach you how to drive / Oh, you're such a tease, babe, rolling both your eyes." Shortly after, "fucked up kinda dream" evokes a similar effect with vocal styles and lyricism reminiscent of Omar Apollo.

"Al Pacino" gracefully concludes pretty with ethereal synths and beautiful vocal melodies. The track features thoughtful ear candy in its sound design, and the distorted vocals over a driving drum beat provide a phenomenal closure to the album.

pretty is indeed pretty good — a perfect harmony of familiar pop sounds and boundary-pushing tracks. This mixtape feels like a progressive step in the right direction. With diverse styles that seem to resonate with Gen Z and TikTok listeners, it wouldn't be surprising if Artemas follows in Labrinth's footsteps, eventually creating a soundtrack for a show like Euphoria (many songs off pretty would seamlessly fit such a series). Anticipation builds for a forthcoming full-length album, especially if it explores the conceptual depth that a visionary artist like Artemas could bring to his evolving sound.

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