Multi-part albums are a difficult sell in the current landscape. Over the last few years, they’ve become a cheap gimmick, a way to link projects that have little in common, thematically or musically, in order to feed off the completionist mindset that many devoted fans–including myself–often have. Which is why it’s such a delight to realize B.I’s Love Or Loved is not one of those obnoxious cash grabs. Instead, that split down the middle is well-earned. Love or Loved, Part 1 is the start of a passionate relationship that inevitably deteriorates due to incompatibility no matter how much you try to live in the vibes. Love or Loved, Part 2 is the aftermath, a stark reality check that just because a relationship ended doesn’t mean it’s over.

Opening track “Loved” is a brilliant move. It sets the stage, recapping the events that lead to B.I’s current state while laying out the roadmap for the EP to follow. To wit, there was a relationship, it ended, and he’s not coping well. “Loved” is a spectacular example of the power of devastating simplicity. The production is sparse and somber but not dour, the quiet reflecting and emphasizing B.I’s internal strife. He’s hit that miserable sweet spot where he knows his problems are his fault and that he needs to change, but has no idea how. Thus, lacking new ideas, he goes back to the old ones–deflection and self-loathing, misery soaking every second.

“4 Letters” sees the story resume, showing the moment of the breakup. We see B.I recognizing that the relationship was unsustainable. He acts with grace and maturity, understanding that love alone is not enough to maintain a relationship, and sometimes things need to end for everyone’s own good. The irony of comforting his now-ex while burying his own hurt plays delightfully well against the chill, beachy disco elements of the production, transforming something that could be callous into an act of care, even if it’s painful. Sadly, this is also where the two recurring flaws of Love or Loved, Part 2 show up–the tinny production and superfluous guest stars, James Reid in this case.

Following the grace and good wishes of “4 Letters”, “Alone” and “SOS” move on to the worst part of break-ups: the loneliness. Downbeat, sour synths and skittering make an excellent backdrop for B.I as he tries and fails to move on. Disconnected and isolated, he never regrets the breakup itself. Rather, the two tracks make it clear that B.I doesn’t do particularly well by himself. He doesn’t want someone, he wants anyone to fill that empty space in his life and save him from his loneliness. 

Which then leads into the closer “All Shook Up”, featuring Agnes Mo. We are back to the disco, but now with a more filled out mix, as B.I has found love again, a new beginning after his heartbreak. This is where Love or Loved earns being a two-part project rather than a single album. We see B.I find someone new, someone special who makes him want to break down his usual walls and get close. Except it’s complete bullshit. This isn’t a fresh start; it’s another turn on the merry-go-round. Love or Loved makes it clear that B.I is an impulsive, semi-codependent mess, perpetually ping-ponging back and forth between the two states, with enough self-awareness to know what he’s doing but not enough to stop. 

Love or Loved, Part 2 is a solid project, one that utilizes B.I’s talent for heartbreaking delivery and self-flagellation. However, as previously mentioned, there are two major things hampering it. First is the reliance on guest stars who add nothing. James Reid, Tytan, and Agnes Mo aren’t bad, but there’s no reason for their presence. They add no new perspectives, have no chemistry with B.I, and their performances are undersold and generic, unlike B.I’s knack for emotive, raw delivery. 

The second major issue is the mixing. The instrumentation is moody and sparse, but still melodic, giving an artful but not overwhelming backdrop for B.I to work off of. However, the mixing is… questionable. The production work flattens out most of the instrumentals, giving everything a tinny, sour element and really emphasizes how thin the mixes are. Even “All Shook Up”, the most built-out track, sounds thin, while more dynamic mixes would easily be able to cover that. It also warps B.I’s vocals, giving them a pitchy quality that undercuts his performance.

Love or Loved, Part 2 is the rare musical project where the split is earned, in concept and, lyrically, in execution. B.I’s raw heartbreak and self-flagellating self-awareness that is then followed by his willingness to go through the whole cycle again is a potent combination. Sadly, the reliance on unneeded guest stars and lacking production work undercuts the sharp ideas and vicious emotions.

(Images via 131, YouTube)