The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | The Black Keys’ ‘Ohio Players’ delivers collaborative album, soulfully blends genres

Rating: 7/10


“Ohio Players” has been years in the making. 

The Black Keys’ 12th studio album comes 23 years after the band’s formation. It’s a vibrant palette of grungy garage and soul, filled with stratospheric guitar sleaze, groovy rhythms and listless blues.

Forty-four minutes long, The Black Keys delivers a dynamic concoction of genres with “Ohio Players.” The album is a soulful and sometimes melancholic combination of textures that prove to be a boundary-pushing project overflowing with passion.

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Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys bonded with singer-songwriter Beck early in their careers when they toured as his opener. Apparently, they hit it off so well that they decided to make an album together.

Twenty years later, we get the soulful melodies, gritty rhythms and crisp vocals of  “Ohio Players.”

The album features endless collaborations, with Beck appearing on half of its tracks, alongside Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, Juicy J, Lil Noid and Greg Cartwright.

“Ohio Players” overflows with Beck’s influence, from his genre-defying blueprint to his signature psychedelia folk sound that permeates each song. 

Beck’s vocals are heard on “Paper Crown,” an expansive exploration of hip-hop and rock that fearlessly blends groovy rhythms, melodic harmonies and ethereal keyboards.

The beat’s slinky chug flawlessly complements Beck’s whiskey-soaked vocals, creating a vibrant song with raw authenticity and undeniable energy.

The Black Keys say they wanted to recreate the feel of their “record hangs,” parties they’ve hosted in cities all over the world, where they’ve spun classic 45s. And for the most part, they achieve this; the album is lively and fresh, a magnetic combination of genres that only The Black Keys can accomplish. 

While the album’s expansive collaborations add depth to the project, the limelight often shifts away from The Black Keys themselves, losing their identity within the partnerships.

The result is a messy, sometimes underwhelming album that occasionally succumbs to genre confusion. At some points, The Black Keys are lost in the disorder and struggle to find their way out. 

But there is some beauty within the mess, whether it be dynamic melodies or the exhilarating pop-rock sound The Black Keys heavily leans into.

“Ohio Players” is an enigmatic display of talent, boasting The Black Keys’s ability to make a sweeping album, highlighting some of their best qualities. 

The band delivers a soulful cover of William Bell’s “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” begging for forgiveness among aching chords and a disconsolate melody. 

It’s a lush-sounding cover — Auerbach’s vocals resonating with raw emotion, the song shying away from the rest of the album’s more lightweight melodies.

“Have I told you lately that I love you?/ Well, if I didn’t, darlin’, I’m sorry,” Auerbach sings on the track.

“Ohio Players” is a medley of familiar sounds, polished experimentation duly crafted to avoid defying the boundaries of The Black Keys’ usual sound. 

Nothing is unexpected, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Black Keys stick to what they know: the retro-rock and ear-wormy blues that have garnered their immense fame over the past 20 years.


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About the Contributor
Annisyn Krebs-Carr
Annisyn Krebs-Carr, Senior buzz Reporter
Hi, I’m Annisyn! I am currently a freshman majoring in journalism. I started with The Daily Illini in Fall 2023 as a buzz staff writer, and became Senior buzz Reporter in the spring. I’m excited to be a part of The DI editorial team, and I’m looking forward to writing more arts and entertainment content. When I’m not writing for The DI, I enjoy playing with my dogs and watching movies. For any questions or concerns feel free to contact me at my email below.
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