It took a while for SAINt JHN to be at the level of mainstream recognition he’s at right now. Starting off as a songwriter for artists like Usher and Jidenna, and releasing two albums in the last couple of years (Collection One & Ghetto Lenny Love Songs respectively). He would go unnoticed until earlier in 2020 when one of his first singles “Roses” would get remixed by Kazakh DJ Imanbek, making the four-year-old song a Billboard chart-topper and a TikTok anthem. Instead of reveling in the success of that one song and feeding into the one-hit-wonder fad, The Guyanese artist would continue working amidst our trying times, the result is an album that was never meant to be, conceived in the last few months on a whim, While The World Was Burning is solid proof that SAINt JHN is, by all means, a true artist. His versatility extends throughout the entire album, despite a few bumps here and there.
JHN’s music has always been characterized by his extensive melodies, deep (yet bold) lyrical content and bass-heavy production. In lamens terms, I’d describe him as the trap version of Kid Cudi. While The World Was Burning is a confessional album, the equivalent of crying at a strip club. While bottles pop and dollars fly in the air, JHN’s sitting there contemplating his fame, friends, and his desire for love. (while still making it rain). He’s bold and toxic for a minute, then extremely reflective and humble the next. A testament that has defined SAINt JHN and one that While The World Was Burning exemplifies immensely.
“Sucks To Be You” sets the vibe for the rest of the album. melodic vocals over trap heavy production. A short story about his come up that serves as a farewell to an ex who wouldn’t stay during his glow up, but he’s not too phased by their absence. His confidence gleams on the chorus (“sucks to be you, I woulda loved you. I’d watch the whole world burn to see you dance”.). “Switching Sides” sees JHN deal with fake friends and the choice of letting them go for good after seeing their true colours. “Freedom Is Priceless” continues the same story as he illustrates his life in Brooklyn before he started rapping, and the mentality those around him had.
JHN becomes boastful and cocky with “Gorgeous”, one of the few “bangers” the album has. He’s not ashamed to talk about his luxuries with pride (“Wanted the Rari’ I walked up and bought it. I don’t even think I thought twice that I thought it. Niggas on, never going back where I started”.). He’s quick to humble himself on the Kanye assisted “Pray 4 Me”. Reflecting on his sudden rise to fame paired with Ye’s verse detailing his mental health makes for one of the most candid tracks on the album.
JHN’s take on romance takes center stage on the bouncy “Quarantine Wifey”, he’s not looking for love or a fiancé, but just a companion for a short time. Complete with a verse from Dreamville’s secret weapon JID and a short soca/dancehall interlude. “Ransom” is a break-up anthem where 6lack, Kehlani, and himself assert themselves to stay away from their exes. (“If you call and I don’t reply. And you text and I just don’t answer. It don’t mean that I changed my mind It just means that I don’t pay ransom.”).
While I praise the album and I enjoyed most of it, there are a few duds here. Closing tracks like “Time For Demons” and “Back On The Ledge”, while both are more honest looks into his life, come up, etc. They sound like something from earlier on the tracklist. The middle section of the album is pretty bland too. Composed of remixes of his older tracks “High School Reunion”, “Monica Lewinsky”, and “Roses”. Featuring Lil Uzi Vert, Boogie With A Hoodie, DaBaby, and Future respectively. While I enjoyed Uzi’s verse on the “High School Reunion” remix, the other two tracks felt pointless. Could’ve stayed as singles in my opinion.
Overall, While The World Was Burning is another great addition to SAINt JHN’s discography. Despite a few flaws, it’s an album that I think will put JHN on everyone’s radar. His vocal melodies paired with his trap ballad production and lyricism that ranges from boastful to contemplative make for a great listen. It's an album that merely showcases his versatility. While The World Was Burning is solid evidence that SAINt JHN is an artist in his own league, making his own waves, and doing whatever he wants to do. He’s been ready to take on the world for a very long time, and we’re finally starting to catch on.
Essential Tracks: Sucks To Be You, Switching Sides, Freedom Is Priceless, Gorgeous, Pray 4 Me, Quarantine Wifey, Ransom.