‘Fighting Demons,’ an enjoyable, yet soulless escapade into Juice WRLD’s psyche

Michael LaRocca, Associate Opinion Editor

Juice WRLD’s album ‘Fighting Demons’ came out on Dec. 10. Photo by Lexiou WesCudi via Flickr

Two years and two days after his sudden passing in December 2019, the production team of Jarad Higgins, better known by his stage name Juice WRLD, released his second posthumous album “Fighting Demons” on Dec. 10. 

Juice WRLD’s first posthumous album “Legends Never Die,” released in July 2020, was a critical and commercial success, showcasing the songs he had brewing prior to his death. As of now, “Fighting Demons” marks the first major release where Grade A Productions, Juice WRLD’s production team, is fully in charge of its creation. “Legends Never Die” was made from songs that were already in progress while Juice WRLD was alive, while “Fighting Demons” was made completely from songs he had put in the vault. Considering all the high expectations weighing on them from the music world, his team did a decent job. 

Leading up to this album’s release, I was absolutely terrified for what I thought we were going to get. Upon my first listen of the album’s two singles, “Already Dead” and “Wandered to LA,” I was appalled. The two songs felt like glorified remasters of leaks I could have found on YouTube three years ago. They came across as freestyles that Juice WRLD did as vocal warm-ups that Grade A decided to actually drop. However, as I listened to the full album the morning after it was released, I saw that the singles were solid entry points for the tone of “Fighting Demons.” 

The somber tone of the album is almost immediately recognizable, with the first five tracks showcasing, almost ominously, how much Juice WRLD contemplated his own demise. This appears in the first track, “Burn,” with lyrics such as, “I fell asleep too deep that one time / Woke up to your cry, girl, I’m fine / But I lied / Had a dream, I wasn’t gon’ wake up this time.” 

Like many of Juice WRLD’s other albums, “Fighting Demons” attempts to take listeners on a journey through his struggles with anxiety and substance abuse, trying to show that there is hope for people to overcome their struggles. This time around, Juice WRLD is not the only voice spreading hope. The album’s fifth track, “Eminem Speaks,” features an interview from the rap legend where he discussed his struggles with substance abuse and the anxieties that came with it. 

For a posthumous album over a year in the making, its high-caliber sound is indicative of the time it took to release. The collection of 10 producers created the perfect tonal balance of upbeat yet dark music to complement Juice WRLD’s lyrics. Two songs specifically were graced with the talents of the industry’s best with the aforementioned “Burn” being helmed by St. Louis producer, Metro Boomin, and the track “Doom” worked on by the record-producing duo Take a Daytrip. 

Personally, “Fighting Demons” pulled a reverse from “An Evening with Silk Sonic” where instead of the project sounding worse the more I listened, my enjoyment of it grew with each press of the play button. Even with all of the songs seeming like unfinished demo tracks, Grade A did a fine job bringing together all of the pieces they were given. 

While my enjoyment of the album is genuine, the album as a whole felt as if it were soulless. When I mention an album having a soul or not, I’m referring to this intangible feeling of purpose an album has in its creation. When you hear albums like Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” or Tyler, the Creator’s “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST,” you can feel the life beaming from the music. With “Fighting Demons,” its veins felt stretched way too thin to have the heartbeat an album needs. 

This soullessness can almost certainly be attributed to this album’s posthumous status. Without Juice WRLD being present for the album’s creation, you can immediately feel his absence. Even “Legends Never Die” possessed the type of soul that made him still feel with us, but “Fighting Demons” gives off the same vibes as an extremely well-done fan album.

While many posthumous albums fall victim to the trend of being swamped with features from other artists, this album was able to escape that undesirable fate. Only three of the album’s 15 full-length songs contained features of any kind, including appearances from North American stars like Justin Bieber and Polo G, as well as South Korean artists like BTS and SUGA. 

The album’s ultimate feature came from rapper Trippie Redd, whose verse on the track “Feline” flaunts as much passion as an artist can on a song of this nature. Understanding Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd’s friendship in life made lines such as, “We ain’t playing both sides, choppa with me, .45 / Juice gon’ hold like two 9s, bitch, we 1400, 999” give me chills every time I hear them. 

Despite its positives, the release of this album only seems to stagnate Juice WRLD’s legacy. If he were alive, we would have been able to see the improvements and evolution in his sound that come with time. Instead, we are forced to live on, listening to pieces he started in 2019 and even before that. 

If the release of Juice WRLD’s music concluded with “Legends Never Die,” the public would have had a decent idea of the progression he made in life. With the release of another posthumous album, all we see is Grade A attempt to force that progression to places it was never intended to go. 

Ultimately, “Fighting Demons” is the exact reason why the music industry should not continue to release posthumous albums in this style. It was a solid album with warranted replay value, but it was nothing world-shattering. If that’s the case, then it begs the question: why release it at all?