American artist Russell Vitale, better known as Russ, released his third studio album “SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE” on Jan. 31. In the past few years, several of Russ’ singles have gained popularity, including “Losin Control” (2015) and “What They Want” (2016), which each peaked respectively at number 62 and 83 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart.
Since the 2018 release of his last album, “ZOO,” Russ admitted he wasn’t proud of the head space he was in at the time. In a handwritten note, he said this new album was inspired by his desire to snap out of his old life, as he was obsessed with “money, girls, fans, etc.” The note is supposed to give insight into the new album but instead only makes generic statements that are unsupported by the album itself.
The album leads with “NEED A MINUTE,” a soulful anthem with raw vocals. Though it’s catchy, it mainly consists of Russ bragging about his lifestyle. In the chorus, Russ raps, “I can’t believe what I’ve achieved/I can’t be damned, I need a minute/It’s hittin’ me way differently/This is a dream, I need a minute.” He flip-flops throughout the song from mentioning the life he used to live — riding trains and counting every penny — to how he lives now — flying on planes and spending millions of dollars on cars.
Taking things at a slower pace is “ALL TO YOU (feat. Kiana Ledé),” the only ballad on the album. With simple strumming on an electric guitar and gentle vocals from both Russ and Ledé, it’s one of the less-explicit songs on the album and focuses on the promise of unconditional love when one commits to a partner. It’s a calm and surprisingly sweet song, which is a stark contrast to the random encounters he mentions on other tracks in this album.
In “SHOTS,” Russ seems to refer to a former relationship or a bad habit as suggested by the chorus, “No one told me that these shots start addin’ up/No one told me I should stop, that I’ve had enough.” Besides the chorus, the rest of the lyrics are hard to decipher. It’s unclear whether he's shunning the ways of his old life or simply recognizing the unfulfillment of his past tendencies. Either way, it seems he has no real plan to make a change.
“MOMMA” is intended to be a dedication to Russ’ mother and a display of the gratitude he has toward her. However, the song is a bit of a conundrum. Half of the time, he sings and raps about how he’s achieved his dream of being a rapper so his mom can live well now. In the chorus, Russ spits, “You ain’t gotta cry no more, mama/I did it/And we don’t gotta chase our dream no more, mama/We live it. The other half of the time, he mentions random tidbits about himself, such as the line, “I like my women built like Doja Cat.” This and other arbitrary phrases take away from the heartfelt sentiment suggested by the title.
“SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE” seems like a futile attempt at self-awareness and maturity. In his album explanation, Russ has expressed his development from the mindset he was in during 2018. But the content and most of his lyrics don’t seem to diverge from the theme of money and girls he claims to be distancing himself from. The songs are well-produced and catchy; they just aren’t very meaningful.