Zronimo – Hitman – Album Review
If you knew how long this record has been in the making like I do…and you knew about ALL of the incredible material that Zronimo had to choose from in making this debut…I think you’d be equally as surprised as I have been in terms of what’s been included and what’s been left out. That being said…I know firsthand that there’s an entire vault of tunes that would rival the one Prince kept his music in, so chances are, now that Zronimo is officially breaking the seal, there’ll be a ton of tunes coming out in the future to follow. Don’t quote me on that though – if there’s one thing I can tell ya definitively about this dude, it’s that the music’s never really finished for this man…he might have another new name to record under the very next week right after I post this up and before Hitman’s official release date on June 25th.
So there’s that. I really can’t guarantee it won’t happen. I’ve heard early tunes, demo tunes, remixes, tracks under different names, and more – I’ve seen & heard records exist and then not exist…and all we can really do as fans of Zronimo here is load up our playlists and hope these songs don’t just disappear. Because rest assured…as much as I think EVERYTHING I’VE POINTED OUT IS SUPREMELY STRANGE (and he knows that I feel this way…) – the reality is, we’ll always take what we can get, because the dude is really damn good at what he does. He’s like the full-on audible equivalent of Purdue Pharma…he gets us hooked on his tunes & then puts us in a vicious cycle of needing more & having to take what we can get.
I do think that it’s almost tougher for me to personally judge this record, given that I know the guy’s whole catalog of tunes practically – it’s harder for me to be objective knowing all that I know. To me, there’s risk in having “Groov’n” as track one…but the only real reason I feel that way is because I can think of about twenty other tracks this guy’s put out over the years that would have made a perfect candidate for the role…so I’ve kinda gotta consider this whole record from a completely different perspective. If I hadn’t heard Zronimo before and didn’t know about all those other songs he’s got locked away in the vault? I could potentially see “Groov’n being a bit more enticing as the gateway into Hitman I suppose…the music really gives you that hit of bright Funk & sunshine vibes straight away, and the people out there are bound to dig on that. Zronimo’s performance is good – the song itself is alright – and with respect to both of those things, even though this first track comes out pretty good, he’ll show ya he’s capable of much better as the album plays on. In terms of energy however…it’d be hard to deny that a cut like “Groov’n” gets the party started quickly though – that’s where things come out sounding spectacular to me & my ears – Zronimo’s confidence sounds as high up as it should be for the skills he has, and that wasn’t always necessarily the case. His technique & talent shines bright on this opening track – as it SHOULD given that he’s loaded with both of those things. Is “Groov’n” my favorite song in the set of Hitman? Heck no! But that’s okay…it’d be worse to have nowhere to go but down from track one. He gives ya a glimpse of his ability to work the Michael Jackson influence in the rhythm, melody & the way a track like “Groov’n” moves…all that speaks strongly on his behalf, without being too much of a direct copy even though we’d all hear & recognize where the roots of the similarities are drawn from. Oddly enough, for me, it was somewhere around the 2:40 mark that I felt like Zronimo tapped into the most special part of “Groov’n” and the most unique moment of the song itself. Decent tune, good start.
My worry with having a ‘good start’ as opposed to one that blows us away though…is that whatever comes next really needs to knock it outta the park if Zronimo’s gonna retain the attention of the people out there…and it’s been a while since I’ve heard the man swing & miss like I felt he did with “Euphoria.” There’s no doubt that the main hook of “it feels good” DOES feel good – that’s the part of the song that works, and I dig the guitar solo & synth bass beat at its core as well – but again, this is where I find it way tougher than a new listener would in hearing this record…I know that Zronimo’s got about twenty other tunes at the very least that I would have put in the lineup before this one. The best way I can put it, is that the music is often what leads a singer to victory, obviously – but by that same token, if you’re riding with the natural melody line, the pace, and the spacing it has too closely, the vocals can nearly become a redundant factor, essentially giving us what we already get through what we find in the music – make sense? You can hear that Zronimo is following that pattern real, real close here in a very matchy-matchy approach, as they’d say in the fashion industry…it’s hard to complain too much about a song that’s clearly just trying to brighten some days out there, and perhaps if this is your first time listening to the man’s music, or just have the one singular experience with “Euphoria,” you could totally feel completely different than I do about it. I pull no punches and I stand by what I say – I know he’s capable of more than he’s revealing at the start of Hitman, and while I’ve been listening to the record, I’ve simply been waiting for the guy to get that all goin’ – because ultimately, I know that he will. This might be an attempt at the art of the reveal…perhaps…but it’s a real fine line to walk without losing any listeners in the process…you wanna get that WOW factor goin’ quickly, and Zronimo’s been holding out on us so far.
Was he saved a bit by guest-star Julieta Cavalaro’s all-star performance on the third track, “Work It?” That’s definitely PART of it – she’s completely crushin’ it, and the results of her efforts seem to kick Zronimo into that second gear we were hoping to find on this record as well. All-in-all, it’s single-worthy content without question…I don’t know that I’m quite as much of a fan of the production on this track in comparison to the sparkle & brightness delivered through the opening two tracks – “Work It” does feel heavily compressed, less breathable and more stifled in that regard. I get it though…wrestling this beast underneath the red line would have been no easy task – it’s a formidable sound that is LARGE & bossed UP…but you’ll notice there’s a different level between the verses Zronimo delivers sound-wise than what you’ll hear from Julieta’s bars too. I’m not really saying any of this ultimately affects how addictive this track IS…trust me when I tell ya, this was the cut I was truly looking for when it came to Hitman’s opening, so it was truly nice to reach it still early enough in the set-list for it to matter & make an impact. The hooks are strong…the sounds outside of Zronimo’s verses and the dank-ass bass-driven synth beat all have spectacular brightness & clarity to it…like the addition of the violin sounds on top is nothing short of complete & utter BRILLIANCE yo…but either those whispers or the energy level in a few lines from the main star of the show need to be raised up, or it might sound a lil’ more uneven than intended. As far as the hooks are concerned, they’re abundant, and seriously killer from start to finish; I might want more volume or energy at points – but whatever…when it comes right down to the core content, all the right pieces are there, and the audible muscle being flexed is sensational in this collaboration. Right now, as far as my opinion goes – Julieta is SO freakin’ AMAZING that she might very well be THE guest-star of the entire YEAR if you ask me…she’s that essential to “Work It” & that all-out spectacular. Not a doubt in my mind that I’d be looking at this track as a potential single even with all I’ve pointed out…the hooks from the music to the microphone practically demand this cut gets some extra attention.
Musically, there’s a ton of great stuff happening throughout Hitman that’s bound to get the party goin’ long & strong – I might feel like the parts written for the vocals don’t quite reach the same level of greatness in that respect, but I’m not completely convinced other people will necessarily feel the same as I do about that. Like, “W.I.L.D (Winning In Life Daily)” has its moments…I’m not indifferent about it, but I’m not really lovin’ it or hatin’ on it either…it’s right square in the middle of the road, and coming right after what’s one of Hitman’s most undeniable gems with “Work It” right beforehand. Zronimo’s definitely unapologetically workin’ the 80s vibes throughout the majority of this record…and that may or may not work to his advantage. Personally, I lived through’em and I’m satisfied in leaving them behind in my rearview permanently to look forward into the future of music without looking back too much – but I’m not everyone. There is definitely an audience for a track like “W.I.L.D (Winning In Life Daily)” – I know that for a verifiable fact. It’s out there in the vacation hot-spots of the tropics & whatnot, but that’s still every bit as valid as any other place is, and there’s certainly a ton of people to be found there. Sarah Alize does well…she’s a bit high-up, and a little more delicate or timid than the fierceness we just experienced on the track right before…but I do like the design of the trading of the mic between her and Zronimo in the chorus of this cut. All-in-all, this is one of those tracks where it’s harder for me to ignore how many other tracks I know of that could have taken its place on Zronimo’s official DEBUT RECORD after all this time spent juggling lineups, refining tunes, and changing names & whatnot…but I can still hear that there’s a solid & sparkling level of appeal that’s gonna go down smooth enough with listeners.
“Magnificent” IS a great track to have pulled from the back catalog…it’s still every bit as fresh as it was back when I first heard it, about four years ago now. You might even be able to find the previous review on it & dig into the roots of Zronimo’s music with a clever search & scrutinous eye at our pages here – and given the fact that the sound file I’ve got is tagged with the original name, I’d say it’s fairly safe to say that this would be the exact same tune from back in the day. Now IF that IS the case, then once again I ask ya Zronimo – where the heck is the rest of that awesomeness from the catalog that I’ve cited over the years and what’s kept it on the cutting room floor for this DEBUT RECORD? I’ll leave that with him to decide whether or not he’s made the right calls in putting his strongest material out on Hitman or not straight outta the gate…maybe he’s got plans for releasing stuff that I don’t know of, and lord knows that if this record doesn’t officially come out until June 25th this month, that he could make about a MILLION changes in between now & then (stay tuned!) – but yeah…I’m just saying that, of course I have no real idea of what the overall plan of attack is. What I can tell ya, is that “Magnificent” IS exactly what its title implies – and it’s a powerful track that I’m seriously stoked got a chance to return for this first official Zronimo record. I’m sure he knows how I’d feel about the variation of the content on this record and how far it ranges in the scope of Hitman’s sound…there’s no question he could have taken a more cohesive approach with all the content that he’s got layin’ around…but in any event, we’re here, and this is what we’ve got – and “Magnificent” still stands out as single-worthy on this record, four years later. It’s just a really damn good tune with stunning execution and killer confidence in Zronimo’s performance – for a longtime listener like myself, it’s total confirmation that he’s always had the magic from day one. Though it might hit a bit harder than the majority of this particular lineup, I can’t help but think that it’s just one of those tracks that everyone listening will welcome back with open ears, every single time they hear it – “Magnificent” is the kind of idea that never dulls over time, and its inclusion here fully proves it.
I’m in favor of “Isabella” – I felt like this came out on the stronger side of the material found on Hitman. All-in-all, it’s a really vibrant tune with a solid story behind it…hooks abound…great personality on display and that extra spark of somethin’ special you wanna hear sliding through your speakers. Verse-wise, we’re right at the top of Zronimo’s register without pushing it overboard…but even he knows that we reach max capacity of the threshold and are just barely hangin’ on at points…it’s a demanding part, and we can hear that it’s a bit challenging to reach. The results prove he’s capable though…he gets to the spots he wants to get to, the melody remains on point, and he’s also got lots of flexibility in the range he explores throughout the structure of this song. Personally, I think he’s a bit more effective when he’s got a more low-key sound to his tone in this particular tune…it comes out a bit smoother – but by that same token, hearing him rise up for that final line in the chorus also confirms the opposite is equally true, and that when called upon to bring it, he certainly can. “Isabella” doesn’t try to be anything pretentious…I mean…it’s a tale that takes place at an Outback Steakhouse of all things – aside from that now being a great place to hit up for a potential endorsement for Zronimo in the future to follow in that same way Shaq capitalized on going to Disneyland, clearly he was going for something a bit on the grassroots side of the story that people could relate to. It’s the kind of detail you really wouldn’t throw into a song unless it was actually true, you feelin’ me? The horns came out great in this cut…the energy & bounce is there…the rhythm & groove is great…Zronimo’s vocals from the lead to the background all came out vibrant & lively…to me, it sounds like “Isabella” will appeal to a whole lot of listeners out there for all the right reasons. It’s lighthearted, it’s fun, it’s got the juice – it’s a great tune.
“Far Away” was definitely essential to have included in this lineup, and it’s still one of my favorite cuts on Hitman, even after having given this track a healthy spin back in February this year as the advance single released when Zronimo was first promoting the album coming out. I have a hard time finding any flaws to be found in this track if I’m being real with ya…we’re what…nearly four months down the road from when I first heard it now? “Far Away” still holds up like it’s the sparkling gem that it genuinely IS – it’s a track to be completely proud of, executed about as brilliantly as any artist out there ever could. I never go back and really read over stuff I’ve written in the past, but I’d be shocked to find out I felt any differently about “Far Away” as I do now – it’s among the best I’ve heard in this dude’s entire catalog when it comes to completeness and attention to detail…no rough edges, no questionable moments, it’s executed with professionalism and passion…the hooks last, they hold up, and it’s all 100% memorable. I suppose what I’m sayin’ is, if there was something that should have changed, I ain’t hearin’ it – and as far as I can tell, this is the exact same version of this single-worthy cut that I was listening to back in February – full proof that when it comes to music, sometimes it’s a great thing if nothing ever changes. I like my “Far Away” just the way it is thank you very much – it’s definitely welcome in these speakers of mine any time, and I felt like even with knowing it inside & out in advance, it’s still a highlight on Hitman.
For a track that’s six-minutes in the Pop/R&B realm…I felt like “Believe” worked out really well for our hero too. Like I was saying from the get-go of this review – there IS risk in the way this record is laid out track by track…but you can hear the way it builds solidly upon itself, and anything coming after the good mood that “Far Away” puts you in was probably in for ready acceptance in our listening ears. “Believe” is another duet…I’ve got the record in advance, so I don’t see all the credits listed yet, but I can tell ya that I like what I hear from both. The opening talking…I don’t mind it…I’m more comfortable with it being there at that point in the song than some kind of awkward breakdown in the middle of it all where Zronimo would all of a sudden break out something strange like “girrrrrrrrrrrrl…you know I’ve been missing you for so very, very long” like we’ve heard in a million other tunes from artists back in the day. I felt like the approach to “Believe” was essentially perfect…this is an example of how the simplest ingredients in a recipe can create the tastiest dish – the same is very much true when it comes to music. The objective is clear, the theme is compelling & meaningful, and the singers on this track are united in getting every moment of “Believe” to shine, which it does. Great singers, both of’em – and when they sing in tandem for the hooks, that’s the real highlight…that’s where you feel the strength of this collaboration and the reasons as to WHY it was a collaborative cut, as opposed to another solo Zronimo tune…there’s purpose and passion in the way they sing this song, and I felt like they got the maximum out of it. Bonus points for the backing vocals of Zronimo as the song heads into its finale and the delicate way that it ends…it’s very early 90s in the sense that like, you could practically hear this would be a PM Dawn song in that era – but that’s my jam…I still love that crew to this very day so this worked out for me personally. “Believe” is aces as far as I’m concerned – another real highlight on this record, and a real accomplishment to have a song, of any kind, at six minutes feel like it’ll really never get old.
For a nine-track album, I’ll admit – it really does feel like it’s kind of got two main personalities & gears to be found…one more aggressive, one more flashy & Pop/R&B-minded…both have real highlights, but it might make Hitman a more varied experience than people would potentially expect, or have them liking one of those particular gears more than the other. That’s one of those live by the sword, die by the sword scenarios whereby Zronimo made it, now he’s gotta deal with the reality of that decision. Some folks out there really like having things bounce a bit further from one side of sound to the other, and others want things to stick in a more cohesive format – and you’re never REALLY gonna please both of’em anyway, so in my opinion…it’s probably best to just do what YOU wanna do and make the records that YOU wanna make, which is what I feel like Zronimo did with Hitman. “B.S (Back Stabber)” came out as one of the most emotionally provocative and inspired moments on the album, and also one of the most decisively different than the majority of the lineup…I mean, the dude’s almost in ROCK terrain here – almost. You get the point though – it’s a much more intense and aggressive cut, despite the beginning that sounds like you’re about to find out what that something calling the in air tonight is gonna be and the misty, ethereal opening that “B.S (Back Stabber)” has. The punch in the bass-lines is perfect, the guitars and the distance you’ll find are equally brilliant – and I felt like you get one of Zronimo’s best vocal performances at the end of this record as well…which makes it all pretty hard to complain about as a finale cut, and I’m not feelin’ like I’m gonna be the guy to try and poke holes in a boat made of steel. There’s real depth in this final track – and a solid dose of Zronimo’s uniqueness on full display…it might recall moments like you’d find from MJ back in the day…tracks like “Give In To Me” that had Slash comin’ in to kick some ass on the guitar, or something like Tricky’s “Bury The Evidence” on Blowback…this final cut has that similar extra layer of gripping intensity you didn’t always expect to find, and once you did, likely became one of your favorite tunes if you had any real musical taste & a diverse palette in what you listen to. “B.S (Back Stabber)” really works with that same kind of subtle, intense, yet still aggressive magic…it’s BOLD entertainment and a courageous move to have added this track into the lineup of Hitman…and all-in-all, I think the people out there are really going to dig this album’s finale as a result. It ends stronger than it started, and the record really GOES somewhere…both of these things are great things to find in an album – Zronimo’s off to a great start…restart…whatever…you get it.
Listen to music by Zronimo at Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4dWKe5SHC1XhmF1859zjTH
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