Yungblud knows he’s going to become an icon. He has the brave and bold aesthetic that demolishes the gender binary. He has the ever-growing, ever-devoted fanbase going by the name of the Black Hearts Club, where the cool kids, the nerds and the emos all have a home. He has the personality, the drive, and something important to say. But does he have the music? Judging from his second album Weird!, the answer isn’t quite as clear cut.
Make no mistake: when Yungblud – real name Dominic Harrison – gets it right, he gets it very right. Opener ‘teresa’ begins with the promise of a piano-led pop ballad before emerging like a butterfly into what sounds like the opening number of his very own rock opera. If he spent his adolescence with American Idiot playing in the background, it certainly shows.
There’s something quite endearing about the lyricism of many of these tracks. ‘cotton candy’ deftly straddles the line between sweet and sultry in its celebration of sexual liberation, while on the other side ‘love song’ sees Harrison at his most vulnerable. “Nobody taught me how to love myself/so how can I love someone else?”, he sings, with emotion straining his voice in one of the most mature tracks of his career. Meanwhile, the arena rock of ‘god save me, but don’t drown me out’ is heart-warmingly jubilant as Harrison declares he’s “not gonna waste my life/Cuz I’ve been f**ked up,” a sentiment fans will surely pin their colours too.
The record’s other strong moments come when Harrison lets his personality, especially his sense of defiance, shine. He’s the kind of guy you could imagine defending you from bullies and could give them a real piece of his mind if it was needed. ‘ice cream man’ is pure tongues-out, middle-fingers-up fun and the music gets better still when it gets brave. ‘superdeadfriends’ is punky rap-rock that mixes sugariness with grit and ‘charity’ is a wry blend of 5 Seconds of Summer and ‘Parklife’ (nope, not even joking) – and somehow, it works.
Weird! is a flawed record in various aspects but there are too many strong moments for it to be written off too easily
On the flipside, however, a couple of songs – surprisingly for an artist who seems so bold and forward-thinking from the outside – are rather bland. While the story of ‘mars’ is beautiful and very worthy of being told, the radio rock balladry underneath the narrative is, sadly, a bit dull. Similarly, samey acoustic ballad ‘it’s quiet in beverly hills’ meanders and brings nothing interesting to the album.
The mistakes continue: the worst of these is ‘strawberry lipstick’ which is an incredibly forced and oftentimes crude few minutes of cock-rock (quite literally). Machine Gun Kelly collaboration ‘acting like that’ feels more like MGK ft. Yungblud rather than the other way around and jars within the context of an album that is otherwise quite cohesive. Closer ‘the freak show’ is so different in its verses and chorus that it comes across as two separate songs chopped up and awkwardly mashed together.
There is one other major fault with Weird! that crops up in numerous songs: ‘cotton candy’, ‘strawberry lipstick’, ‘acting like that’, ‘it’s quiet in beverly hills’, the list goes on. Parts of these songs are very repetitive. In these tracks, Harrison latches onto one line and makes it into a hook by repeating it ad nauseam: “I’m losing myself in you, in you, in you, in you,” from ‘cotton candy’ being one example. It’s irritating at best and even a little lazy at worst – good choruses work because they have something different, something of substance, to say within the context of a song.
Weird! is a flawed record in various aspects but there are too many strong moments for it to be written off too easily. Dom Harrison is still an artist with potential who is worthy of a lot of respect. Undoubtedly, this will be a record that the members of the Black Hearts Club will lap up and hold close to their chests, and for Yungblud, that is all that matters.
Recommended listening: ‘teresa’