YUNGBLUD (real name Dominick Harrison) has seen his stock grow feverishly with no sign of slowing down since his 2018 debut 21st Century Liability, which was followed by the 2019 EP The Underrated Youth. Collabs with Machine Gun Kelly and Bring Me The Horizon have seen him transcend global circumstances to make 2020 a breakout year, and his newest full length release weird! is seemingly the next step in the evolution of music’s newest punk icon.
However, the very nature of YUNGBLUD’s diverse style, that has made him a household name could also be what drags weird! down artistically.
The opening four tracks are the best the album has on offer, essentially being a love letter between YUNGBLUD and his fanbase. That may sound a tad cliché, but YUNGBLUD’s ability to capture the struggle of finding and embracing the real you is frighteningly authentic, striking that special relationship that gives the album it’s raw, emotional tone.
Opening track teresa was inspired by an Instagram DM Dom received from a fan, and introduces the album on a tender note. The line ‘as long as I watch over you, you don’t need to run’ could just as well be a hand on the shoulder of his listeners, assuring them that the album is just as much their’s as it is his. Cotton Candy represents a departure both tonally and stylistically for the album, with the bombastic pop sound presenting a far more positive tone than his some of his previous works, something which is prevalent throughout. The track takes on extra personal significance with Dom revealing he is polyamorous and pansexual in an interview close to the album’s release.
Another stylistic point evident throughout the album is YUNGBLUD’s general disregard for genre. While nothing particularly new to his work, and something which won’t escape criticism, YUNGBLUD is able to shift from the pop sound of Cotton Candy to the punk inspired Strawberry Lipstick with relative ease, which serves itself effectively as it all comes under the umbrella of the overall message and goal of the album, uniting everyone suffering from the pain of self-expression. Strawberry Lipstick takes a more direct approach to calling out these issues lyrically, with lines like ‘Signing f*** all the oppression and the self doubt’ maintaining the album’s violent positivity through it’s discussion of easily manipulated relationships.
Mars gives us another shift into ballad territory, aping David Bowie’s Life on Mars with elements of My Chemical Romance to round of an impressive start to the album, with the music video also providing arguably the perfect visual representation of the album as a whole. YUNGBLUD’S vocal capabilities are a highlight here namely, as the variety he shows in the opening tracks reaches it’s crescendo with the biting emotion need for Mars, as Dom bellows out the chorus in probably his strongest vocal performance on the album.
However, the next several tracks show the opposing side of the arguments concerning this album, with the vast contrast between styles making it harder to accept them as simply representative of the chaos of adolescence, and moreso representative of an unevenly produced album, which unfortunately undermines the deeply emotional messages. Superdeadfriends’ strikes a 90’s Beastie Boys vibe which is the most different sounding on the album, but feels as if it belongs on one of his prior albums. Love Song and god save me, but don’t drown me out temporarily course correct the album by providing a more straightforward (and more effective) approach to the tracks in the nature of Mars earlier in the album, as both are slow burning songs that build toward a cathartic chorus that matches the album’s themes.
Ice cream man’s throwback to unfamiliar territory throws us off the path again though, placing an odd track about proud nationalism in the midst of a reckoning of self-love. Again, this wouldn’t necessarily be a negative if the sound wasn’t so intentionally abstract. I believe this is the point, trying to use vastly different sounds to match the unpredictable nature of navigating yourself and the world right now, but songs such as Ice Cream Man and superdeadfriends, which are meant to act as buffers for the emotional themes, only serve to devalue them.
Later tracks Charity and acting like that don’t help this idea much either, with the latter feeling far more like a track that belongs on MGK’s most recent release (as was originally intended), and the former feeling as if YUNGBLUD is simply trying to fit all his inspirations into one muddled song. Title track weird! is able to strike a balance between the two sides of the album, with a positive sound that doesn’t undercut the message, and is at the very least a breezy recognition of the world’s current state.
The album’s closers do the hype justice however, as it’s quiet in beverly hills calms everything down, whittling the focus onto the issues at hand, before ‘the freak show’ is able to move back to being a celebration of not only YUNGBLUD best qualities as an artist and a public figure, but of the idea of embracing the freedom of choosing who you are. The tonal and emotional shifts that I feel YUNGBLUD tried and failed to produce in several of the tracks on the album succeeds here, ending the album triumphantly.
Coming up with a vital conclusion of this album is tricky, as it exhibits both the best and worst elements that come with having such a stark message melded across a genre-jumping album. In the end though, I feel YUNGBLUD’s pure sincerity in giving his fans an album entirely for them bumps it past any notable criticism. Dominick Harrison may still be finding his feet in terms of narrowing down who he is as an artist, but in the end that’s what the entire album is about, navigating every element of yourself to find the real you, and in that sense, weird! succeeds in every sense of the imagination.
By Brandon Bethune
Listen to wierd! on Spotify now