‘Never Land II’ album review
album: Never Land II
artist: Andy Mineo
release date: October 1, 2021
star rating: four out of five
review by Levi Yager
Andy Mineo has returned to Never Land with his latest release. A surprise sequel to the fan-favorite and high-selling EP from 2014, Never Land II looks more forward than back and brings a variety of flavors to the table. And it’s just stuffed with hits.
As you might expect, there are some allusions to the world of Peter Pan created by author and playwright J.M. Barrie. Mineo mentions finding lost boys, losing his happy thought and falling from flight. Additionally, the theme of youth permeates the album; Mineo employs a choir of kids’ voices for a couple parts and features multiple soudbites of his mom talking about when he was a kid, which is especially significant considering the emphasis on motherhood in the Peter Pan story.
But let’s dig in to the tunes. First, I gotta say that the production is impeccable across the board. Mineo has a penchant for playing with dynamics on this record, often going loud before quickly dropping the levels back down again, and each vocal part, instrument and effect sounds super clean at every turn. Mineo’s own performance is top-notch, too, rocking a loose flow and tight bars.
The first two tracks, “Am I…” and “…Falling?,” make for a stellar, one-two-punch opening, the former being a short, theatrical prelude to the latter. Upon entrance, “…Falling?” immediately flips into a bangin’ track about personal and cultural fallout – with a real fresh sound. Right off the bat here, we get an idea of where Mineo’s coming from on certain topics. He rhymes, “Jesus, save me from Christians, the ones that stay forgettin’; before y’all hold a grudge, you should hold a beer – before y’all hold a stone, you should hold a mirror.” Mineo fires off a few more shots when he mentions disgraced icons Bill Cosby and the late Ravi Zacharias in the song “It Could Be Worse,” saying, “Ain’t much surprise me, man; all of my heroes be wylin’, man.” It’s not all serious, though. Mineo frequently lofts some levity over with lines like, “Try’na stop cussin’ – ah, f*ck it,” in the later track “Trying” and, “Yeah, I know I’m a workaholic, but I’ve been workin’ on it,” in the fifth song, “Working On It.” The lyrics are pretty sharp all-around.
Speaking of “Working On It,” it’s one of my favorite cuts from Never Land II. Mineo turns up the tempo with this track, utilizing a Latin-esque backing beat that slaps hard. Like a few other tracks I’m partial to on this record – namely “Remind Me” and “Cross My Heart” – it’s also got a fat, melodic hook sung by a featured vocalist.
The conspicuous oddity on Never Land II is the final track, “Coming in Hot,” featuring Lecrae. Originally released in 2018 as a non-album single, it feels somewhat out of place here when you consider the fact it wasn’t initially meant for this specific tracklist. Of course, it’s likely just tacked on since the song went viral on social media in the spring of this year, and I can’t really blame Mineo or Reach Records; the decision makes sense from a commercial standpoint. “Coming in Hot” is a good song, but its inclusion still seems a little weird from an artistic point of view.
All said, I’m a fan of this album. Mineo isn’t reinventing the wheel with this one; he’s maximizing the established, quality styles in the genre at the moment. Never Land II is a great record altogether, and with 14 tracks, you definitely get a big bang for your buck.