Album Review: 070 Shake, Modus Vivendi

By Lucas Sant’Anna

070 Shake’s Modus Vivendi doesn’t feel like a debut, but rather a polished showcase of her greatest strengths as a musician, solidifying her place among post-genre trailblazers. Modus Vivendi is a trip to outer space. From the album cover to the celestial production to the lyrics themselves, 070 Shake has produced an intoxicating journey through a cosmic expanse.

070 Shake is a force to be reckoned with. Born Danielle Balbuena, the New Jersey artist skyrocketed to fame after her prominent feature on “Ghost Town,” a track off Kanye West’s controversial 2018 project ye. A year and a half later, 070 Shake has released her highly anticipated debut LP, Modus Vivendi.

Modus Vivendi is a latin phrase meaning a peaceful agreement to coexist. On her album, Shake talks love, heartbreak, commitment, and the thrill of her meteoric rise to stardom, all over spaced-out production and hypnotizing drum lines. 070 Shake and her collaborator and producer Mike Dean create a powerful musical soundscape that’s simultaneously subtle and complex, combining distorted guitar and electronic synth with layered vocals to mirror the moody, intense atmosphere that shrouds 070 Shake herself. 070 Shake’s team was able to combine ethereal production with elements of emo-rap, hip-hop, and latin pop to create a sound that simultaneously evokes artists like Post Malone and Mac Miller, but also something entirely new. And through all of this, Modus Vivendi manages to remain pleasantly cohesive, but doesn’t give way to repetition.

Perhaps 070 Shake’s most standout feature is her voice. Its malleability perfectly complements the textured production on Modus Vivendi, effortlessly transitioning from bellowing choruses to rapped verses to soft bridges. Nothing seems to put her outside of her comfort zone, and it shows. 070 Shake has presented a project where she comes across as unabashedly herself: confident, shameless, honest, enthralling.

The album is certainly not without flaws, however. 070 Shake’s lyricism has undoubtedly grown since her earlier projects, but can still occasionally come off as hackneyed or even vapid. On “Nice to Have,” Shake comments on the pleasures of being in a committed relationship: “Nice to have someone to care for you, be there for you, someone that’d take a dare for you.” Not much depth here.

The album’s strongest moments come when 070 Shake is able to admit her own flaws. “Guilty Conscience” and “Microdosing” both tell stories where she can reflect on her struggles with fidelity and commitment, and yet it’s impossible not to see and feel her point of view. Her maturity and bravery with such difficult topics give the album a more nuanced and realistic representation of imperfect love and relationships. 

The album reaches its most vulnerable at its coda. In “Flight 319,” Shake contemplates her mortality and spirituality in a way that feels genuine and raw. She asks big questions: “Lost her only son and he wasn’t even three, now try telling her everything is meant to be, it’s hard to believe a vision you can’t see, but tell me have you looked at the air that you breathe?” 

It’s no easy path from here. Despite her strong debut, Shake has a long way to go to establish herself as post-genre royalty in the turbulent music industry of this coming decade. On her track “Daydreamin,” Shake acknowledges that “truth be told, I got the hardest ahead.” But she is also quick to assert that “red light, green light, either way I’ma go.” This spunk and conviction is exactly what gives me confidence she has what it takes. 

Favorite Tracks:

  1. “Divorce”
  2. “Guilty Conscience”
  3. “Under the Moon”
  4. “Flight 319”