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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

Cal Times

The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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Album of the Week

No Looking Back for Jordan Ward
Sarah Seader
CalTimes Album of the Week

Welcome to the return of the CalTimes’s Album of the Week series! We will be reviewing our favorite albums and artists old and new, across all genres. If you have any suggestions, please email us!

This week’s album: A new take on R&B fundamentals by niche star Jordan Ward.

Jordan Ward is the new normal in the modern R&B scene, both in his unique sound and his rise to fame. He is the definition of a new classic: Rising to popularity through social media and various single hits.

Though he could be seen in the music scene in 2017, his initial project Valley Hopefuls in 2019 set Ward on a path to success in a shifting industry. While it did not create the major splash he was hoping, his sophomore project Forward would catapult him into the mainstream, amassing over 1.7 million followers on Spotify alone. Ward’s blend of melodic, wavy tracks with a healthy dose of layered vocals set Forward apart from other contemporary R&B/Soul albums.

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The 14-song, 30-minute album is filled with genuine moments of solace and raw emotional response, from artist and listener alike. Ward paints a picture of his early relationships growing up in St. Louis, and his attempts of embracing the love given to him by those relationships while also finding a way to move- you guessed it- forward.

There are so many moments in this album that can only be described as music stripped down to its essence. Ward fully pours himself into this project and often just lets the sound do the talking, while simultaneously holding the audience by the hand and guiding them through his multiple messages.

It is impressive. But, as if with a wink and a nod, Ward knows that a project is nothing without risk.

High-reaching when it has to be, Ward’s raw and amateur vocals could have been a major point of detraction for this album. However, the general feel of the album, minus a song or two, is one of unseriousness and playful energy. The occasional overlapped vocal tracks combined with the soulful electronic melodies hoist up Ward’s vocals. Do not expect Adele or The Weeknd on this album- it is a genuine and authentic depository of Ward’s emotions.

A severely two-toned album, Forward has moments of joy and fun, like on the floating tracks “IDC”, “WHITE CROCS”, “DANCE MACHINE”, “SIDEKICK”, and “CHERIMOYA”. “WHITE CROCS” especially serves itself to the audience as a high-energy vibe session between Ward and featured artist Ryan Trey.

The undeniable highlight of the album is “FAMJAM4000”, which gained serious popularity on platforms like TikTok and established Ward as an emerging star. The song is upbeat with a mystifying chorus. I can fully see “FAMJAM4000” being in consideration for a generational song- one that lasts as a hit of our time.

Those tracks are contrasted with the serious lyrics and underdeveloped sounds of songs like “FORWARD”, “311”, “FLIGHTS”, and “THINK TWICE”. The titular track, specifically, appears right before the bonus songs on the album, and grounds the listener in the ultimate message of the project: accepting the trauma and mistakes of the past and moving on.

Ward somehow fits a serious and nostalgic message into a project that can mostly be enjoyed as a light-hearted listen. The vast majority of this album is perfect for R&B lovers on a late-night drive. This set of tracks never gets turned up to 11, and it seems like that was on purpose. Forward is sonically consistent, even when exploring different BPMs and lyrical weight. It is an impressively solid project with almost no fraying.

Jordan Ward is here to stay, and has completely and entirely found his niche within the R&B/Soul scene as a slightly experimental but familiar voice. Based on his sound, he has no problem being who he is. But I can only describe him as this: If you’re over 40, you probably won’t find a home in Jordan Ward’s music, even if you love the genre. Ward is claimed- and rightly so- by the new and experimental Indie R&B generation.

Rating: 7.5/10

Main Attractors: Jordan Ward’s vocals- like his themes- are raw and unadulterated. The tracks feel like sitting in a relaxing jam session between friends, with all members completely confident in themselves. The features are not overly present, leaving Ward himself to carry most of the load. This could have backfired, but the ratio pays off in a big way. Put on some mood lighting, cook some good comfort food, and let these mesmerizing sounds carry you.

Main Detractors: Where does he go from here? For an artist, the sophomore project is difficult. Too similar, and you run the risk of being a one-trick pony. Too different, and your fanbase might not appreciate it. Jordan Ward’s sound is so specific and unchangeable that his future in the industry could be in question. His sound is extremely niche, and will not attract mass audiences. Those who do not appreciate an experimental element in music are not likely to stick around for too long.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Havens, News/Reviews Editor
Andrew Havens is a staff writer for the CalTimes and a Junior Communications Studies major with a minor in Marketing. Being from right across the river in Brownsville, PA, Andrew knows and loves the local community, trying his hardest to show off the amazing people in his hometown as well as his university. Andrew is just starting to pick up real-world writing and marketing experience, interning for both and Heartland Fabrication over the summer, as a staff writer and marketing intern respectively. The research gathering process is his favorite part of the job, because: "if you've researched correctly, the story just falls together!" You can find Andrew all over campus: attending meetings with the Graphic Design Club, writing away furiously on his laptop, working up a sweat at the gym, or simply getting his favorite sushi from Umami. He is entering his second year writing for the CalTimes.
Sarah Seader, Editor-in-Chief

Sarah Seader is the Editor-in-Chief and a Staff Writer for the CalTimes and a Senior Honors Student at PennWest California, pursuing two degrees in Business Administration Management and Management Information Systems with a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as a Data Science Certificate. Sarah serves as the PennWest California Student Trustee.

Sarah is involved serving as the President of the SAI Board of Directors, President of DECA, President of Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD), Student Government Executive Board serving as Vice President, Vice President of Finance Club, Accounting Club Treasurer, and serves as the Treasurer on the Student Honors Advisory Board (SHAB).

Sarah is also a member of Women United, CUTV, WCAL, New Life, STAND, American Sign Language (ASL) Club, American Marketing Association (AMA), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Student Activities Board (SAB), Vulcan Gaming Club, President's Leadership Academy (PLA), The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), and serves as a Peer Mentor and Honors Coach.

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