ALBUM REVIEW: YUNGBLUD – weird!
Photo Credit: Tom Pallant
Yorkshire born and bred singer YUNGBLUD is no stranger to speaking out for the masses, using his highly influential platform, position and power as one of the biggest solo singers in the alternative music sphere. Since bursting onto the scene in 2016, he’s shouted loud and proud about social injustices felt hardest by the youth of today. Once again, this 23-year old voice of a generation is transmitting this very pepped-up rage and justified rebellious attitude towards the major issues of the world, not to mention his own deeply personal struggles, on his lyrically empowering and musically eclectic second studio album, weird!.
Following on from 2018’s politically hard-hitting, genre-bending full-length 21st Century Liability, 2020’s sophomore effort weird! doubles down on the raw vulnerability first glimpsed on YUNGBLUD‘s previous releases, including his debut full-length and EP the underrated youth. weird! is YUNGBLUD‘s most emotionally complex body of work to date. Remaining true to his fierce refusal to box himself in, weird! embodies a wildly eclectic range of sounds broadly encompassing everything from dance-punk and glam-rock, to hip-hip and metal alike.
weird! starts off on opener teresa and sets the tone for the remainder of the record, in the fact that this album isn’t a one genre fits all approach. Blending hard-hitting punk rock with softer, subtle acoustic pop, teresa opens with the latter. The spine chilling sound is likened to that of a music box, instantly gripping from the get go, before introducing thought provoking piano in the slower paced verses. The track truly takes off in all its punk rock glory by the time the chorus rolls around, as the poignant piano chords are swapped for the commonplace guitar and drum combo in YUNGBLUD’s catalogue. Despite the switch in musical styles, one thing that remains the same throughout teresa is YUNGBLUD’s profound yet powerful vocal performance, displaying a different side to this often loud, proud and outspoken individual whose own vulnerabilities are laid bare.
The first string of singles on weird! comes from cotton candy, strawberry lipstick and mars. cotton candy and strawberry lipstick are outright odes to sexual freedom, whereas mars is a bold statement of self acceptance. “It’s a story of coming of age and self acceptance and liberation, in terms of sex and gender and drugs and heartbreak and all the other twists and turns we go through in life,” says YUNGBLUD about weird! as an entity, yet individually it seems such a statement couldn’t be better suited to these songs. Both cotton candy and strawberry lipstick teach a life lesson in losing yourself in love of all kinds, and mars stands up in the face of homophonic and transphobic behaviour towards the transgender community. Inspired by real life stories of such paramount societal matters, these singles are the spearheaders in individuality, as the 23-year old states: “I hope it makes people feel like it’s okay to feel out of place or twister or weird, because life is weird but that’s what’s beautiful about it. So don’t ever try to live it as someone else. Live it as you.” It seems such strong messages couldn’t come from anyone better than YUNGBLUD, an artist and individual who is a shining ambassador for free flowing gender and sexual expression.
Before getting onto any more singles, the widely chaotic superdeadfriends and the wholesomely heartfelt love song are up next. Firstly, superdeadfriends is a song that is totally unruly in nature. It’s a frenzied rock rollercoaster at its best, boasting big bombastic sounds similar to The 1975’s rally cry anthem People, putting system shocking, shouted vocals and heavy confrontational instrumentation to the forefront. Despite its sporadic sounds the lyrics remain frank and direct, once again addressing the liberty to express oneself to family, friends and the wider world, as YUNGBLUD’s distorted screams state: “I want to live in a world where I/Can be who I am without having to try/Mum, dad, let me please/Let me be free to come off my feet.”
Second to the chaos of superdeadfriends comes the calm of love song, a stripped-back slow number all about the singer’s personal perception and perspective on love throughout his childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Gentle acoustic guitars get this one going, with its tender twangs setting the tone for the rest of the track. YUNGBLUD’s vocals come in shortly after, which prove to be a simply breathtaking showcase of the vocal dexterity this singer has in him. Continuing to push the genre envelope further, flecks of hip-hop beats and twinkling pop-friendly keys flow into the song’s soundscape, before picking up the pace for its grand crescendo, which is guaranteed to leave listeners’ tender emotions in tatters following its climax.
More singles incoming now, with third single god save me, but don’t drown me out and first single weird!. Starting off with the infectiously anthemic god save me, but don’t drown me out, this one is another inspiring tune. The track takes off immediately, with a band of racing electric guitars and YUNGBLUD’s distinctly coarse vocals, which depict the singer’s late night dazed and confused thoughts from the off. “Calm me down before I sleep/Cause I don’t know where I’ve just been/ And the morning seems so far away/ And the drugs just hit, so I’m wide awake,” almost as if it’s like a surreal bedtime story. The chorus is where the track gets down to the nitty gritty, taking on the topic of being your true self and living the life you so desire, represented in YUNGBLUD himself saying that: “I won’t let my insecurities define who I am/ Not gonna waste my life ’cause I’ve been fucked up.” The rest of the song suggests the pressure and personal battles YUNGBLUD has with his brain, however towards the end of the track a glimmer of hope, optimism and reassurance beckons, as he declares not just to himself but to a legion of dedicated supporters, “I think we might be alright, you know”.
In a year where life is nothing but normal, title-track weird! is the ultimate soundtrack to 2020. Dealing with deeply personal stuff from YUNGBLUD, namely anxiety, heartbreak and mental health, this track truly exposes the trials and tribulations he has endured over the past 18 months. The lyrics are accompanied by what can only be described as a combination of dance-rock, Depeche Mode-esque electronic-rock, New Order-type new wave and synth-pop, all rolled into one big ball of experimentation. Ultimately though, weird! as a standalone single embodies the LP in its entirety, with the track’s wacky digital distortions reinforcing the song’s and studio album’s weird narrative.
In between the two aforementioned singles is ice cream man, borrowing elements of Brit pop, most notoriously characterised by the track’s catchy pop-based hooks, guitar driven melodies, mid-tempo pace and radio friendly mainstream appeal. This track is perfectly poised for the rooms on YUNGBLUD’s forthcoming UK tour, besides the buoyant energy this singer brings to his live shows. Apart from its infectious high octane drive, ice cream man lacks sustenance compared to its counterparts, in part let down by the humdrum repetition of the “Nah-nah-nah’s” and the “ooh’s” alike.
Cranking up the drums and guitars, charity is bold, bouncy, bright and one of the best deep cuts on the album. YUNGBLUD’s vocals in the verses sound influenced by iconic Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, adopting his own air of style and swagger whilst achieving a nasal quality, famously associated with that of Gallaghers. Lyrically, on the surface, charity comes across as highly humorous with its witty words, but deep down they identify the subject of self-discovery amongst the lines: “Lost in the supermarket shopping for my sense of self/ I wandered down the aisles tryna figure out where I disappeared to/ What will I adhere to? And what could I appear to be?/ And maybe I’m with the strawberries, alone on the shelf.”
Moving onto the last two tracks of weird!, it’s quiet in beverly hills and the freak show. it’s quiet in beverly hills is a sincere song that details the harsh realities of living in LA, amidst the glitz and glamour associated with a dreamland like Beverly Hills. From feeling boxed in by the music business, to the public pressures that come with the level of fame and fortune this Doncaster born singer has risen to, YUNGBLUD sets the record straight from first hand experience of living out in LA, as he sings: “Contemplating silent suicide/When everybody seemed to make it” as well as the lyric line that summarises the whole songs message “When what you see is make-believe.”
Lastly, unifying closer the freak show is a showstopper of a song that sends out weird! with a bang. All about embracing our inner freak, this track is a call to arms that encourages everyone to embrace their freakier side. The song aims to positively normalise and break the stigma amongst society’s negative connotations towards the very word. Accompanied by theatrical drums and a vocal masterclass in transitioning between the rough and smooth tones, YUNGBLUD welcomes one and all to the freak show with wide open arms.
Even with a string of successful collaborations with Bring Me The Horizon, Denzel Curry, Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds, Machine Gun Kelly and Blink-182’s Travis Barker ahead of his album’s release, weird! witnesses YUNGBLUD stepping out as a lone voice cutting above the noise of those trying to silence him – speaking out for not only himself, but on behalf of his supersized group of Gen Z supporters on his brand-new, pop leaning LP.
Standout Tracks: cotton candy, strawberry lipstick, superdeadfriends, god save me, but don’t drown me out, charity, the freak show
For Fans Of: 5 Seconds Of Summer, blackbear, Harry Styles, Machine Gun Kelly, The 1975
Written by: Katie Conway-Flood