We’ve not quite reached the end of 2020 just yet, but Yungblud‘s follow-up to 2018’s phenomenal 21st Century Liability – Weird! – is certainly a high note for this final month of chaos. While the former explored the many ways in which the youth are ostracised from society, the latter looks more at the individual becoming comfortable with being different. And how better to do that than with an album that just won’t settle into any one genre?
We open with the heartfelt ballad of Teresa; our first hint that Yungblud is traversing more pop-punk/emo areas with Weird! It feels like Yungblud and Machine Gun Kelly have been spending too much time together reminiscing about the mid-2000s, but we’re not complaining. There’s a distinct early Panic At The Disco edge to this opener but it’s far from dated.
Following that is arguably the most vibrant single, Cotton Candy. It’s an infectious pop track about the wonders of polyamory and memorable, if not for the sexual themes then for the line: “I wanna get stuck between your teeth like cotton candy”. Cotton candy literally dissolves as soon as it hits your tongue. But whatever – we’re more distracted by his calling candyfloss “cotton candy”: the American influence is clear on this record.
There’s a hint of British punk in the intro to Strawberry Lipstick, but it develops into guitar-heavy alt-metal territory and you can even draw similarities between his soaring vocals and those of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way.
Mars sounds a lot more like 21st Century Liability with more understated vocals. That’s largely due to the fact that the song tells the story of a young transgender girl, inspired by stories of trans teens who have admitted to Yungblud personally that his debut album helped them through their toughest times. It’s also very obviously lyrically inspired by David Bowie’s Life On Mars?, but that’s where the influence ends.
Meanwhile, Ice Cream Man and Charity are the most (well, only, really) Britpop songs on the album; the former being laced with dance-punk elements and the latter harkening back to Park Life-era Blur. They’re a nice break from the myriad balladic numbers. God Save Me, But Don’t Drown Me Out is your standard, lighters-in-the-air pop-punk anthem, while Love Song sits more in the indietronica realm. Penultimate number It’s Quiet In Beverly Hills is an acoustic indie track that feels surprisingly safe instrumentally, but is one of the most hard-hitting thematically.
Still, there’s enough on hear to keep us coming back to it. Superdeadfriends enters the realm of nu-metal with 90s-esque electronic elements, while the bubblegum pop of the titular Weird! contrasts with the emotional uncertainty of the lyrics rather wonderfully. Acting Like That is the obligatory collaboration with his bestie Machine Gun Kelly, who’s also been exploring a more pop-punk sound with his latest release Tickets to My Downfall. Despite that, this song is really more of a dance track with a touch of hip hop.
We end on The Freak Show, which feels appropriately upbeat for a closer. It’s dark and sensually creepy for the first half, but changes tack into more of an anthemic number by the second half which feels uncharacteristically predictable and lazy.
We get that cohesion is important in any album and filler tracks are to be expected, but it does come as a surprise when a song on this particular record doesn’t follow through.
But the bar is significantly high for Yungblud. His greatest talent is being able to string together distinct tracks, skipping from genre to genre with apparent ease and he certainly does that here. Most impressively is his vocal versitility; if you were unsure about his singing talents before, you won’t be after Weird!.