Album review: Dominic Fike explores journey to fame in genre-bending debut album
(Courtesy of Columbia Records)
“What Could Possibly Go Wrong”
Released July 31
July 31, 2020 4:55 p.m.
Dominic Fike’s debut album is as daring as the question, “What could possibly go wrong?”
At only 34 minutes long, Fike’s debut is short, but it nonetheless cements his place in the music industry as an artist worthy of the attention he has garnered. Over the course of the long-awaited release, Fike is unafraid to meld genres together, combining clever rap lyrics with laid-back vocals, backed by strumming guitar strings. Though the sonic shifts within songs are jarring, they speak to his voice as an artist unafraid to push boundaries while his lyrics reveal the intimate narrative of a musician learning to navigate the limelight.
The piercing guitar of “Come Here,” is a startling opening to the album, but its rebellious sound is akin to Fike’s artistic ability to challenge expectations. He nearly shouts, “So why can’t you tell me/ What you think I should do?” atop of grungy production and haunting backing vocals that demand attention. While the song is just over a minute long, it features a swift melodic shift – the first of many on the album – as Fike glides between harsh production and soft vocals.
Following the fierce opener, Fike switches to a blunt and sardonic rap style in “Cancel Me.” In a nod to cancel culture, he candidly admits his struggles to cope with the pressures of stardom and his desires to be out of the public eye. Layered with a pulsating beat, he welcomes a public crucifixion, “I hope they euthanize me/ I hope I never, ever have to go on TV.”
Placed between songs with more typical lyrical arrangements, “10x Stronger” is a much-needed change of pace and a standout track with its layers of echoed choruses. The sweeping string instrumentals and breathy vocalizations introduce a more somber tone that contrasts with the youthful and energetic tracks that preceded it. With only one lyric, “I pretend I’m 10 times stronger for you,” Fike compensates for this understated songwriting with unconventional melodic structures.
The artist then moves away from robust production to deliver more laid-back vocals on “Good Game,” though the acoustic instrumentation is more fit for a scene in a romantic comedy than the debut album of a rising rockstar. While Fike grapples with his developing identity, “Do you remember my name, huh?/ Or do you see a stranger when you look at my face?” his narrative is ultimately lost in the slow and droning song.
The album’s low point is followed with the redeeming “Why,” whose opening twangy vocalization is repetitive of the previous track, but quickly transforms into the lively bass line, silky vocals and cheeky lyrics that are characteristic of Fike’s catchy and boyish exuberance.
Fike continues to excel as he swaps upbeat melodies with slowed rap verses in the sultry “Vampire,” a seductive song featuring the strum of a guitar and a polished beat. The artist switches between vibrant singing and subdued rap, analogizing his experience as a rising artist to encounters with mythical creatures – “Everyone at this party’s a vampire/ This ain’t red wine.” Even as his vocals fade away into the persisting guitar strums, the artist’s velvety voice is captivating.
The genre-bending nature of Fike’s music is most palpable on “Joe Blazey,” which opens with high-pitched and grungy vocals layered with a bouncy beat, both of which abruptly stop midway through the song. Fike, though, swiftly moves into an angered rap as he bitterly laments a relationship before asserting, “I think I fell off/ I’m going dark mode.” The sudden change in style is discordant, but unsurprising given the jolting changes in tone Fike introduced in previous songs.
As the album builds continuously on his newfound experiences with fame, Fike concludes this narrative with his most honest and introspective track that reflects on his life before achieving notoriety. “Florida” serves as an homage to his hometown and the influences of his artistry, nodding to his childhood friends and the struggles growing up. His vocals carry the same graininess found in earlier songs as he builds into speedy rap and references his own arrest, “Shoulda told the judge before they locked me up/ ‘It ain’t shit in the universe that could stop me, bruh.'”
And in his first album, Fike proves himself unstoppable as he refuses to settle for a consistent sound. By effortlessly integrating personal lyrical subtleties with amalgamations of different genres, Fike asserts the confidence many new artists lack. Fike’s debut is bold and brash, leaving the listener with the burning desire to hear more of Fike’s daring voice.
Fike asked, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” and answered with a resounding affirmation of his own striking abilities.