Review: Dominic Fike’s debut album is eclectic and Gen Z focused

by Jaymie Wei | 8/14/20 2:00am

Dominic Fike’s debut album “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” is the antidote to a lackluster summer. Released on July 31, Fike’s album presents an eclectic collection of musical ideas well-packaged into 14 songs. This 34-minute listen is full of pleasant twists and turns that make for an engaging and kaleidoscopic record.

Throughout the album, Fike showcases his ability to straddle multiple genres, swerving from alt-rock to pop to R&B in instances that are more refreshing than they are disjointed.

The first track “Come Here” is a bit of a grating opener — so skip it if you can — that features a screeching guitar and some agonized wailing. However, it doesn’t put a damper on the rest of the collection.

The second track “Double Negative” is the best song of the album. The skippy rhythm paired with short, punchy lines creates a memorable and catchy tune. This two-minute feel-good song will make “your skeleton shake,” as the singer suggests. 

“Cancel Me” directly addresses “cancel culture,” the phenomenon in which public figures are subjected to mass online criticism. Fike airs his concerns about his rising fame, musing that he might prefer to be “canceled” so he can spend more time with his family. The song is a strikingly clear window into his reluctance toward newfound celebrity. In a broader sense, I think we can all relate to the pressure of expectations and find solace in his declaration, “As of right now, my job is to lie down.”

In “Why,” a staccato chorus overlays some background crooning, alternating with a bobbing melody that your ears follow up and down. The song is made lyrically compelling by plenty of alliteration and assonance.

In the middle of the album, a high-pitched Fike orders a savory snack to his hotel room in “Chicken Tenders” — which appears to be an upgrade from the motel in “3 Nights,” a previous single from his 2018 album, “Don’t Forget About Me, Demos.” What ensues is a quirky appraisal of room service and relationships, which is a testament to Fike’s capacity to revel in mundane moments.

The most coherent, albeit cliche song — as it utilizes an edgy ’90s boy band aesthetic — is “Vampire.” The song foregrounds Fike’s imagination, transporting the listener to a party and inside the mind of the singer, who, gripped by a gothic paranoia, is convinced that he and his fellow partygoers are “all food for the bloodsuckers.”

The ostensibly heavy “Politics & Violence” lures you in with a haunting intro, which breaks into some mellow meditations on Hollywood and love, before the final leg of the song is ushered in with a beat switch. Ironically, the song has nothing to do with politics or violence.

The album closes with “Florida,” a low drone which detours into rap, detailing how far Fike has come in his career, “from a sunken place to the top.” Woven into this song are tidbits from his tumultuous rise to stardom, such as the reference to his arrest for battery of a police officer.

Like most people who listen to Fike, he first appeared on my radar after I heard his breakout hit “3 Nights” last summer, courtesy of a friend’s Spotify likes. Now I pride myself on knowing his origin story: how he started out as a rapper on SoundCloud, recorded his first EP while under house arrest and signed on with Columbia Records for a reported $4 million.

Aside from his rags to riches ascent, Fike is worth following for his captivating persona. He’s simultaneously erratic and earnest. One of the first videos I watched of him was Brockhampton’s “This is Dominic Fike,” in which he answers some questions, runs down the street and does a couple backflips. Two days before releasing his album, Fike posted a video on YouTube where he skydives and then ponders the experience of jumping out of a “perfectly OK airplane.”

Needless to say, this kind of inexplicable, carefree content is just what appeals to my disillusioned Gen Z outlook. Fike’s music is no different: his songs adhere to the same non-logic of his character. Those who say that “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” lacks coherent structure or a refined sound are missing the point. The album is good precisely for its thematic inconsistency, its genre-bending versatility and its patchwork presentation.

The more I listen to Fike’s songs, the less meaning I take away from his music. His lyrics convey no concrete messages and his sound refuses to be boxed into and marketed as one genre. More than anything, the album is a collection of wandering ideas curated for wandering minds. It is a sampling of sounds not meant to be deciphered, which makes it perfect ear candy for folding laundry, driving to the supermarket or ordering a chicken tender queso from the Hop — just kidding.

Personally, I listen to Fike for the opportunity to romp through his imagination: to hang out in hotel rooms, walk through vampire-populated parties and trace his journey from Naples, Florida to Los Angeles. The scenery of my living room and kitchen just isn’t cutting it anymore. Winding down a summer of relentless monotony, Fike is here to shake things up a bit.

As for the best way to enjoy Fike’s music, I’ll defer to a line from the last song of his album: “Play this often, don’t take this sh— too serious.”

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