GRAPHIC BY ELSIE MCKENDRY
Haunting harmonies. Elegant strings. Thundering drums. Depression. Loneliness. Growth. With her debut album “Life Support” released on Feb. 26, 2021, Madison Beer has successfully established herself in the music industry with her poetic lyrics, entrancing production and unique sound.
The twenty-one-year-old musician has been involved with music for many years, her earliest work dating back to 2013 with her single “Melodies.” It was only until the release of her second single off the album, “Selfish,” when Beer gained a larger presence in the music industry. While Beer is primarily seen as a pop artist, she mixes many genres, including R&B and electronic in her music.
Only a few minutes into “Life Support,” Beer introduces a new sound with the song “Default.” Rather than electric rhythms, the song is solely Beer’s voice accompanied by simple strings. Even though the song is short, less than two minutes, it is one of the most moving songs on the album. Inspired by the challenges of a toxic relationship, Beer’s vocals clearly reflect her pain in a way listeners have not heard before.
In many of Beer’s songs, you can hear her sing with a deeper chest voice. However, in this song, she switches registers to sing in her softer and higher head voice. Performing in a style that is more mellow and more delicate conveys the depression and worry she is feeling, sounding as if she is on the verge of tears.
In the first half, Beer sings, “oh my love, you bring me back to default,” and later, “you take every last drop of me.” The contrast of these lyrics, from utter infatuation to complete sadness, enhances the title of the song. With smooth melancholy runs and intricate strings in the background, this song is one for the books.
In the latter half of the album, the song “Emotional Bruises” focuses on the on-again-off-again phase during the breakup of a toxic relationship. Lyrically this is one of my favorite songs on the album. Beer uses repetition to illustrate the evolution of the relationship, starting with, “you got me on life support” and working towards an end of “cutting off the life support.” The tone of her voice, tired and frustrated, shows how dangerous this relationship is to her mental health. I think using the phrase “life support” shows how scary it is for her to end this chapter, but also how she needs to be more emotionally independent.
The following song, “Homesick,” branches out from Beer’s perceived style as a relatively stripped down song. Even though it is deeply somber, I cannot help but be awed by the rawness and emotion behind her talented vocals. Consisting mostly of Beer’s voice and a guitar in the background, it is easy for the listener to focus on the meaning of lyrics.
With lines like, “counting the stars, they always felt so far, but it’s always felt like home to me,” Beer sings about the loneliness and isolation after a hard breakup. Just as the song ends, a snippet from the animated show Rick and Morty, Beer’s favorite show, can be heard. This ties up the song nicely, adding a touch of comedy to the overall somber mood of the song. This is probably my favorite song on the album because it is so different from all her others.
The final song, “Channel Surfing/The End,” is like a bow, a beautiful piece to tie the entire project together. With sounds of a remote control, a TV switching networks and snippets of each song, the outro feels as if one is moving through the timeline of “Life Support” from beginning to end.
In the final moments of the song, a cheery rhythm decorated with strings, Beer says “thank you, thank you so much,” giving the song a very personal tone. I love this ending because it feels truly intimate even though the song contains few lyrics. While just a few words, one can clearly hear the emotion behind Beer’s voice and can understand how grateful she is to her listeners for embarking on the journey of “Life support.”
As much as I have said this album is about the trials and tribulations of relationships, it is also about mental health and Beer’s journey with her own.
“With my album, I made a promise to myself that this is going to be my time to express honestly and truthfully how I’ve been feeling,” Beer said in an interview with Rolling Stone in May 2020. “I could finally tell my story the way I wanted to tell it and touch on things like medications that are harmful for young adults that I’ve been put on, and real [topics] I’ve never been able to talk about.”
Overall, I would rate this album a four and a half out of five. In a time where the art of music can be seen as an afterthought, it’s refreshing to have artists like Beer who are willing to be vulnerable and true in what they create. This past year has certainly been on “life support,” but Beer’s music has only made it healthier.