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Issue 1762 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free



in Issue 1762

Doncaster native Dominic Harrison, professionally known as YUNGBLUD, is one of the music industry’s most unorthodox and varied artists active right now. Fiercely loyal to his fans, Dom has developed a die-hard social media following, where his posts flaunting expressive dress sense, gender-fluidity and ideas of being your authentic self are consistently bathed in a sea of black heart emojis, adopted by fans as a symbol of solidarity and support to the tribulations and struggles he is so jarringly open about. This openness is most explicitly shown on the new album’s front cover, which depicts the artist himself dressed in 7 wildly different outfits that span all gender and cultural norms, with two of the depictions kissing each other.

“You are legitimately the arteries to this black heart of mine”

Following on from his debut full-length album 21st Century Liability, Weird! provides a crashing ensemble of different genres, styles and emotions, showing that Dom is everything but boxed in by the industry he is now a part of. Despite this stance, the album possesses a distinct lack of cohesion, and in my opinion can be seen more as a collection of singles as opposed to a project that should be listened to from start to end.

It is truly hard to express the array of different genres across this album. The opening track “teresa” starts things off with a slow, emotional ballad that evolves into a heavier, dramatic second half, telling the relationship of a YUNGBLUD fan with her boyfriend who had passed away, but still watches over her from the grave. From the start we can see a noticeable difference between Weird! and Dom’s previous, less in-depth, punk rock persona.

In stark contrast to “teresa”, the second track "cotton candy" is one of the catchiest and most notable tracks in the project. Pre-released as a single for good reason, "cotton candy" offers more swaggering guitar and drums behind Dom’s description of sexual liberation and promiscuity, and how amongst the 'body overdose' of flings, he’s losing himself in one person in particular.

"strawberry lipstick" takes a dive into more old-school punk, opening with screeching reverb and Dom shouting 'this is a song about a person I love!', that person being himself.

"mars" is one of the more acoustic tracks on the album, exploring the feelings of a transgender girl who was not accepted by her parents. Showing a distinct 2000s emo tinge similar to the likes of My Chemical Romance, the hook 'do you feel like you’re irrelevant, do you feel like you’re just scared as fuck' is as raw as possible, providing serious relatability to those unhappy with the way things are.

"superdeadfriends" echoes "strawberry lipstick" to a certain degree, but with more electronics. With the explicit title alluding to losing your friends to drugs, it's another heavier punk track gives slight traces of rock bands such as Royal Blood and The White Stripes, and more juxtaposition from track to track.

"love song" and "it’s quiet in beverly hills" are both entirely acoustic tracks with similar sounds. Both have strong references to love, in a relationship sense as well as to YUNGBLUD supporters in general, and offer enjoyably calming pit stops along the path of punk.

One of the highlights of the album is the track "god save me, but don’t drown me out". Arguably the most emotional song on the project, it opens with epic and uplifting electric guitar that provides the backing for a vivid exploration of personal struggle, and in the artist’s own words, 'overcoming anything'. The message is similar to that of "mars", highlighted by the repeated line 'not gonna waste my life ‘cause I’ve been fucked up'.

Back to swagger, "icecream man" takes a far more surface level emotional turn, with no distinct consistent message and a classic rock feel peppered with other influences.

The title track "weird!" could be off a Wombats album. With similar themes to many of his songs, "weird!" reinforces the notion of solidarity with yourself and realising that you’re not alone, no matter how 'weird' you and the world are.

"charity" offers another example of uncamouflaged artistic borrowing, taking clear inspiration from artists such as The Streets in the form of a half-rap half-sung lyrical walk, backed up by punchy power chords. On a personal note, I also hear strong notes of Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger in the chorus, which some may know as the theme tune to Peep Show.

Nearing the end of the album, another high point is reached with the pre-released collaboration of YUNGBLUD and rapper turned pop-punk fledgling Machine Gun Kelly, "acting like that". This song was built to emanate the feeling of losing control at your favourite artist’s concert and it does just that. Much akin to MGK’s most recent album, the urge to headbang whilst listening is nearly insatiable.

The final track of the album, "the freak show" is pleasantly consistent with the rest of the album, but nothing special in my opinion. With MCR vibes as in "mars", this song is almost onomatopoeic in that its verses sound as though the listener is watching a freak show.

Overall, I would chalk this album down as a rare example that doesn’t really have any bad songs, but is too varied and incohesive to qualify as a solid project. At his young age of 23, I’m sure this is simply a stepping stone in Dom’s development, and that we can be sure to receive more emotion-evoking, catchy material in the future.

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