American DJ and record producer Diplo is incredibly prolific and has performed under a number of guises. He’s worked with the cream of the music crop including Madonna, Britney Spears, No Doubt and Justin Bieber. In 2019 he announced he was making a Country album and the first cut to arrive from that was So Long featuring Cam. More than a year on since the release of that, and plenty of Country crossover releases later, Diplo is finally unveiling Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil.
Something that should be pointed out early on is that Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil isn’t really a Country album. What it is, is a project where Diplo has taken Country stars and brought them into his world (although the inclusion of Jonas Brothers on the album is a little confusing given they’re pure pop). Fans of Country, the traditional kind at least, will find plenty to pick at here rather than appreciate but the album requires you go in with an open mind.
Opening with a spoken word intro from rising, and mysterious, Country star Orville Peck, it’s not until So Long that the album really gets under way. The song is one of the best tracks on here and it’s a great example of Diplo’s skill at marrying dance beats with Country instrumentation. If you strip away the beats, this is a pure Country song and with Cam’s vocal driving through the melody, it’s a track that’s infectious and addictive.
The harder beats of So Long give way for the yearning Heartless featuring Morgan Wallen on vocals. The track also appears with Morgan and Julia Michaels later on but for me the Morgan solo version is the stronger of the two. Diplo pushes Morgan’s vocals harder than we’ve heard before and the grit in his tone is something I’d like to hear more of. The stuttering beats are memorable and the melody will lodge in your brain.
Another highlight comes on Dance With Me featuring Thomas Rhett and Young Thug. Musically it’s not a million miles away from the direction Rhett has been heading for years and it’s a total banger. For me it’s better than his entire last album and it makes me think he should finally do a Taylor Swift and leave Country behind. Elsewhere on the record Blanco Brown does nothing to prove he’s more than a one trick pony on Do Si Do, Zac Brown continues his downward trend on Hometown and sadly takes Danielle Bradbery with him, and Julia Michaels and Clever fail to make an impact on Real Life Stuff.
Noah Cyrus finally steps out of her sister Miley’s shadow on the urgent On Mine. Vocally the sisters are fairly similar but Noah has retained the Country twang that Miley quickly ditched for pop superstardom. Musically the track harks back to traditional Country but layers it with modern beats. The album comes to a close with the Diplo remix of Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ Old Town Road. The song has been played to death but there’s no denying it works on this track listing.
Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil is an interesting project. It’ll find an audience among Diplo’s fans and those who like the artists he’s worked with. There’s enough here for it to be good listen but there are a few too many misses. I like the idea behind the project and when it hits the mark it’s very good but it feels a little too gimmicky to be a truly ground-breaking project.
Track list: 1. Intro (ft. Orville Peck) 2. So Long (ft. Cam) 3. Heartless (ft. Morgan Wallen) 4. Lonely (with Jonas Brothers) 5. Dance With Me (ft. Thomas Rhett & Young Thug) 6. Do Si Do (ft. Blanco Brown) 7. On Mine (ft. Noah Cyrus) 8. Real Life Stuff (ft. Julia Michaels & Clever) 9. Hometown (ft. Zac Brown & Danielle Bradbery) 10. Heartbreak (ft. Ben Burgess) 10. Heartless (ft. Julia Michaels & Morgan Wallen) 11. Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus – Old Town Road (Diplo Remix) Record label: RCA Release date: 29th May 2020 Buy Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil