Review Summary: The Golden Age is a grand, over-bloated journey through Woodkid’s eyes.
Capturing the hearts of many with catchy song-writing isn’t new; pop-stars have been doing it since time began. Just take a look at today’s mainstream pop music, sugary beats, sweet vocals, unforgettable choruses and a shallow framework to hold it up. Pop music isn’t usually built upon emotion or reality and it’s a rare occasion that an artist sings truthfully about what they feel. However, in recent years more artists who seem transparent or at least portray such transparency have become the centre of attention. Musical giants such as Adele, Lana Del Rey and Fiona Apple (who made a ‘comeback’) to the lesser known artists such as Marina Diamondis, all present music with an emotional backbone. One of these ‘lesser’ known artists, is a French gentleman under the pseudonym Woodkid. His meaningful song writing caught the attention of many; from ‘Iron’ to ‘I Love You’ and as a result he was catapulted to the forefront of the underground. He steadily became a ‘must hear’ artist. Now in 2013, he’s releasing his debut album, The Golden Age.
Woodkid, aka Yoann Lemoine has gradually been sucking people into his mournful storytelling, his songs present life stories; personal experiences are the foundations to large, ethereal instrumental backdrops. These backdrops are his musical canvases. His lyricism and melancholic voice are the paint, splashing against the surface, creating images that look
graceful. Beneath the surface there isn’t much to see, it’s what we’ve heard before and I’m afraid to say, it’s been done better. The Golden Age boldly stands out amongst its peers delivering an experience that at first glance, is unrivalled. Sure, pulling on heart-strings isn’t new but the direction Woodkid tries to take is, although he never develops his
direction. He merely sticks to the formula. The Golden Age births familiarity, you could say in a hasty manner “We’ve heard it all before from his contemporaries, he follows the same path, the solemn instrumentally (primarily orchestral) driven sound with bluesy vocals, in a true and tried fashion”. That’s exactly the case, we’ve heard it all before and it doesn’t sustain the effect it has comparing to the initial impact. If you pull the album apart and separate it into several pieces, you get an album that has been forcefully put together; like finding a jigsaw puzzle piece that doesn’t fit. For example, he tries too hard to sound sincere and it just doesn’t sound right. The thematic music gets tiring and loses steam before the album is over, it comes across as forced. Combine that with the melodramatics and it appears that he lets the idea of being ‘emotional’ run away with him. Woodkid delivers an emotionally driven artistic vision that is executed haphazardly.
Furthermore, his vocals aren’t that impressive, he doesn’t push his voice nor does he try to expand his vocal palette. His voice is contained and because of this his entire performance comes across as a big hearted Frenchman, and that’s about it. The way he attempts to croon verses is uncomfortable and raises the question, “What were you thinking?” Moreover, the pronunciation varies, sometimes words sound muddy; his accent can get the better of him. Vocally, Woodkid demonstrates very little vocal prowess; in comparison to other male singers, he doesn’t offer much in terms of variety or power. However, his voice does have an appeal, and it’s not too polarizing; it’s relatively accessible. Many people will find his voice satisfying due to its simplistic nature and that’s fine. But on an artistic level it would have been intriguing to see what he could potentially do.
It isn’t all bad though, the music is the highlight of the entire album. Gloomy, intricately layered soundscapes which are emphasised by church organs, strings, piano and pounding drums among various other sounds, create such a brooding atmosphere; it's a refined whirlpool of sound. The instrumentation can invoke all manners of emotion, from sheer joy to gut-wrenching sadness. The lyrical content varies in quality far too much, ranging from clever to out rightly weak. Verses can be crammed with wording and choruses are over-stated, each time they try to be something they’re not; climatic and beautiful. On the other hand, the composition and structures of his music allows the instruments to breathe, creating a versatile, organic sounding experience.
The Golden Age is something that may appear special but if you take a closer look, everything will be exposed. His creativity gets the better of him and the whole idea of what ‘Woodkid’ should sound like is prevalent throughout. This lack of control holds him back from achieving bigger and better things. The Golden Age sounds conflicted, Yoann never seems quite sure of what he wants from his debut. He tries to play towards his strengths but they eventually hinder him. His lack of awareness also weakens the album. There is some heart and soul buried amongst the rubble but it’s too few and far between. Woodkid offers an album that shows promise but ultimately fails to deliver it.