The most surprising thing about the ridiculously titled Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil? It’s not that this is a country/dance/pop fusion album from one of the biggest producers in the world. It’s not that it’s managed to actually be counted as Country on the US charts. To me it was that this is only Diplo’s second ‘solo’ album! The guy has released seemingly hundreds of collaborative albums with Silk City, Jack U, Major Lazer and LSD, and even on a Solo album he’s created an entire new persona to release it under.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, there is a LOT of country influence on here, from some of the most current country stars like Thomas Rhett and Morgan Wallen to the heartfelt lyrics to the twangy guitar. The opening intro sets the scene of a sort of moody country dive bar, with buzzy new star Orville Peck appearing for far less than he should have. Next comes by far the most successful blend of country and pop here, with a star turn from Cam. ‘So Long’ has been knocking around my playlists for a few months now, and I still love the way it subtly builds.
Next up are the two biggest hits of the record, ‘Heartless’ and ‘Lonely’ with Morgan Wallen and Jonas Brothers respectively. The former seems to fit with the thematic blend of styles better, Morgan emerging as one of the most current voices in the country scene right now and he sounds great here. Lonely is less successful, it’s a perfectly fine Jonas Bros song, but with their recent track record being surprisingly high, this isn’t one of the their best. It’s a little too on the nose next to some of the more interesting moments here.
Dance with Me and On Mine are other potential breakthrough moments, both of which I really enjoyed. Thomas Rhett has been barely hanging onto the country genre since he broke into the mainstream a few years ago and hearing him go all in on ‘Dance with Me’ is actually pretty great to hear. Young Thug and Rhett make a surprisingly good duo here too. The Noah Cyrus track is perfectly nice too, but it’s the song lodged between that all but ends any positive feelings about the Thomas Wesley project.
‘Do Si Do’ is horrific. It’s the sound of someone falling on the record player while ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ plays and your ‘fun auntie’ is line-dancing and your younger sibling is listening to Drake. It’s so predictable and obnoxiously shit that it makes me wonder if the rest of these songs were just flukes.
It’s a shame that not much else after this does anything remotely interesting. We have 3 more EDM’ed country songs, did we really need another of these from Zac Brown, as well as a redundant version of Heartless with Julia Michaels and ending with the Diplo remix of ‘Old Town Road.’ Including THE country genre bending hit of the decade on here just shows up how monumentally shit Do Si Do is, even when it’s the most boring version of the song too.
There’s glimpses of some really great genre melding music here, I’d like to hear a lot more from Cam and Orville Peck on Pt 2, and for the most part my initial intrigue of ‘Diplo does country’ was met with a small nod of approval. Just ditch the ‘Do Si Do’ bollocks next time please?
Words by Sam Atkins