New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Review: Jon Batiste’s ‘World Music Radio’ is an overlooked gem

Despite not winning album of the year on Sunday, Jon Batiste’s latest work still makes for one of the best listens of the past year.
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Jon Batiste (Courtesy photo by Emman Montavalan)

Five-time Grammy Award winner Jon Batiste is a musical treasure. Whether performing as the bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” in his 2023 Netflix documentary “American Symphony” or with some of his earlier musical works, Batiste has always been creating entertainment to be excited for.

Batiste’s album “World Music Radio” released on Aug. 18 of last year. Batiste opened this work by introducing himself as “Billy Bob Bo Bob,” the host of the radio show the LP is centered on. The album is organized to resemble a radio broadcast, which at times becomes a bit random in tone. Even with these sudden tonal jumps, Billy Bob Bo Bob’s input on life — and the upcoming songs — remain consistent. He rejoices that “faithful listeners of World Music Radio know / this is an experience,” and an experience the album is. Without hesitation, the listeners are immersed into a world of energetic sounds and happy vocalizations.

Batiste’s reputation as a masterful songwriter continues to flourish with his soulful tracks. The Louisiana native does not hide his cultural roots in his music. His fusion of soul, R&B, funk and jazz makes for a rhapsodically uplifting listen, something that is clear in “Worship.” From a beat that makes you want to get up and just dance to such simple, yet beautiful lyrics like “We are born the same / Return to that place,” this song is the powerful heart that keeps the album alive.

Batiste actively seeks to celebrate humanity. The power that emanates through his artistic intention gives him the potent ability to direct his audience’s hearts towards love and hope. “Butterfly” features a powerful, soothing piano performance. He shows his gentle side on this track where he sings: “Butterfly in the air / Where you can fly anywhere / A sight beyond compare.” This piece does more than inspire — “Butterfly” transports its lucky listeners to a serene place devoid of expectations and worries.

“Worship” and “Butterfly” were up for the 2024 record of the year and song of the year, respectively. Batiste was majorly overlooked in these categories. “Worship” is a well-rounded piece of poeticism. Additionally, the lyricism in “Butterfly” was beautiful and expressive. Maybe a win in both categories is asking for too much, but Batiste should have walked away with a Grammy from at least one of his six categories.

As much as Batiste should have had a successful night, there was one category where he had little chance of victory: album of the year. In an album filled with lyrical and melodic brilliance, it was quite disappointing and a little heartbreaking to see the album consistently make abrupt shifts from a calm song to a highly energetic track. The feeling is comparable to when your liked songs playlist you have curated for five years is on shuffle. The most jerking of these occurrences exists in the transition from “BOOM FOR REAL” to “MOVEMENT 18’ (Heroes)” in which the rush felt from the first of the two is dissolved by what feels like a mundane religious homily in “MOVEMENT 18’ (Heroes).”

As standalone tracks, these songs are exceptional, but they are put together in an album that resembles getting stuck at every red light while driving. With this said, “World Music Radio” is still an exciting listen. It’s loaded with exciting features ranging from NewJeans to Lil Wayne to Lana Del Rey, eliciting captivating messages and thrillingly unique sounds. Though the organizational execution was not polished, it is a must-listen album.

Although Batiste did not win for any of his six nominations at this year’s Grammys, “World Music Radio” is still deserving of praise. With talent like his, Batiste is an artist worthy of staying on your radar.

Contact Hunter Castro at [email protected].

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