It’s been more than a decade since Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer revealed their talents to the world as The Lonely Island with “Lazy Sunday,” an esoteric digital short on Saturday Night Live that took the world by storm in 2005. It would be four years after the sketch aired before the group’s collection of videos including “Like A Boss”, “Natalie’s Rap” and, of course, “I’m On A Boat” were compiled into the groundbreaking and Grammy-nominated Incredibad.
In addition to reinventing the form and criteria for an SNL sketch with their shorts (ahem, “J*zz In My Pants”), The Lonely Island’s debut album had a large impact on the musical comedy world, revealing the possibilities for original comedic songwriting over parody, and paving the way for artists like Lil Dicky. Some have even gone as far as to say that the popularity of “Lazy Sunday” in late 2005 kickstarted the massive growth of Youtube and made its $1.65 billion sale to Google in 2006 possible.
When “Lazy Sunday” aired in 2005, few expected a world nearly 15-years later when we the comedy-rap trio would be dropping their fourth full-length project. We should have seen their career-artist potential coming when they unleashed the Akon-featuring “I Just Had Sex” in 2010. The anthem became recognizable around the world and was a hint that the group was en route to never stop never stopping.
The Lonely Island’s latest effort, The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, takes cues from Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Frank Ocean’s Endless, really only in the sense that it dropped on Netflix as a 30-minute visual album with no notice. Sorry, The Lonely Island prefer to call it a “visual poem.”
But Bash Brothers also exists in a continuum a little closer to those aforementioned superstars than ever before, because of the objective quality of the songs that is immediately discernible. It almost doesn’t matter that they are all written from the point of view of Mark McGuire (played by Schaffer) and Jose Canseco (played by Samberg), who were together known as the album’s namesake “Bash Brothers” during their time playing for the Oakland Athletics in the late 1980s. Put simply, this is a collection of songs that are just very good.
Sure, the premise of the album and Netflix special sounds absurd. Okay, who am I kidding, it’s extremely absurd. In case you’ve forgotten, this is a concept album imagining a world where McGuire and Canseco made a rap album in 1988. There isn’t really a plot; there doesn’t have to be.
The visual album finds the duo singing about what they believe they do best: hitting home runs, partying, and doing steroids. But beneath the surface level nonsense and comedy of the characters, the actual music slays with monster hooks (“Oakland Nights”), top-notch production (“IHOP”), and clever Beastie Boys-influenced delivery (“Uniform On”).
With Bash Brothers, the group only recruited two feature spots from Sia and Haim, putting aside the massive names like Kendrick Lamar, Adam Levine, and Justin Timberlake that they have employed to bolster the credibility of past productions. This allows Schaffer and Samberg to put some truly impressive rap flow and auto-tuned vocal runs on display, with some of the songs as instantly addicting as the biggest pop songs in the world today, even when they’re talking about making “erotic shadow puppets in the candlelight.”
The Lonely Island are able to succeed where other comedy rappers don’t because of their attention to detail on the production side of the songs. While many artists in the comedy sector put a large emphasis solely on the comedic real estate of their lyrics, opting to use simple, looped beats as background noise, The Lonely Island take the time to supplement those lyrics with incredibly strong production that keeps the music dynamic and surprising. These are songs you can put on as just another song on the playlist, not exclusively when you’re in the mood for a laugh.
To that end, The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is another impressive entry to the group’s catalogue, and as much of a musical success as it is a visual one. For a group that’s soundtracked parties for more than a decade and is about to embark on their first-ever tour, it’s par for the course for what has already been a singular career.