Madison Beer
Life Support


3.0
good

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (152 Reviews)
March 6th, 2021 | 19 replies


Release Date: 02/26/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: When ambition outstrips execution

The road to Life Support was paved with seemingly good intentions and, conversely, a lot of scrutiny. Whether Madison Beer likes it or not, her music and social media notoriety are always going to be intertwined to an extent - specifically, in how people buy into her “honesty.” Amidst her massive TikTok following and accusations of being an industry plant, there’s been a lot of skepticism around her ability to carry a credible music career. And let’s be clear here: Beer has every right to make a serious, introspective record. She’s been incredibly open about her struggles with depression and borderline personality disorder, which factor heavily into the music found in Life Support. But sadly, there are a few glaring problems that consistently threaten to undermine what is otherwise a strong first showing.

The biggest issue with Beer herself is that she wears her influences on her sleeve without having much of her own identity. Her singing is an uncomfortably close facsimile of Ariana Grande’s breathy mid-range vocals, while also taking a few cues from the Lana Del Rey and Billie Eilish playbooks as well. The style is serviceable for the type of music here, but the lack of any distinguishing features of her own becomes quite apparent as the record keeps going. Hell, “Follow the White Rabbit” has her outright stealing the “yuh” vocal inflection that’s ubiquitous with Grande’s work now! It’s a shame too, because Beer is clearly a very talented singer. The intro “The Beginning” (very original title) is a beautiful way to introduce her talent, featuring her haunting reverb-laden vocals over a lush guitar backdrop. Then you have “Interlude,” a largely a cappella number with no shortage of killer harmonies; it actually sounds like a 2021 update of what could have been an interlude from an old Queen album.

Therein lies the biggest conflict regarding Life Support: the fact that the music itself actually tends to be really solid! I wish Beer’s singing had more character, because the instrumental work that accompanies her is simply beautiful at times. There’s a lot of variety too; “Homesick” features a lovely fingerpicked guitar and pleasant background keyboards, while “Effortlessly” combines harp and deep bass for a sound that’s both comforting and sorrowful. Meanwhile, “Follow the White Rabbit” is packed with pulsating synth drops that give off the feeling of descending into an chasm of soundscapes. Something the album really benefits from is the brief nature of most tracks; they’re long enough to say what they have to say, but then dip out just as quickly. It’s also an effective way to pack more variation into the album; Beer can go from the rich harmonies and clean guitar of “Selfish” to an over-the-top dance-pop spectacle like “BOYSHIT” pretty easily. And speaking of Queen, just listen to “BOYSHIT” and compare it to their 1982 hit “Body Language”... there are some interesting similarities between the two.

As for the lyrics, they’re a very mixed bag. I understand that Beer wanted to use the album to shine a light on her mental struggles, but there’s simply not enough emphasis placed on them. She tries to split the difference between her struggles and a separate set of generic relationship lyrics, and it causes a really jarring tonal disconnect at times. Whenever she ditches the romantic stuff and sticks with the darker talk of mental health, it always makes for more compelling material. “Stained Glass” is a great example of this, speaking on both Beer’s internal issues and the public scrutiny that often exacerbates them. But the best showing of her more introspective side is “Homesick,” a song about alienation and detachment that hits a lot of the same notes as Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien” - even if there’s a completely unnecessary Rick and Morty bit at the end.

Madison Beer’s first full-length affair often plays out like a giant showcase of missed potential. However, because of its most effective moments, this one comes with a begrudging recommendation. The vocals might be too derivative and the lyrics might be too inconsistent, but the level of ambition in the music here is well beyond most pop debuts. Plus, we could always use more records that talk about mental health in such frank and honest terms, even if Beer loses the plot on occasion. Proceed with caution, but proceed nonetheless.



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user ratings (12)
2.6
average


Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 6th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This one was pretty difficult to write about because of how damn conflicted I was about it. Hopefully my points here were clear enough

Nocte
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2021


13964 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah this had better value on a first spin.

Get Low
March 6th 2021


9820 Comments


Lurked this the other day; mediocre

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 6th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is sooooo damn close to a 2.5 for me. My 3 is hanging by a thread, lol

ian b
Contributing Reviewer
March 6th 2021


1943 Comments


hahahh her name is the same as thing i drown my sorrows in guess i'll do the same with this record lolecksdee

Digging: Meat Computer and KirbLaGoop - Goop Computer

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 6th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Beer is the real life support 😁

gschwen
March 6th 2021


587 Comments


I've been to New Glarus, which is about as close to great Madison beer as you can get!

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 7th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

lol, nice!

BallsToTheWall
March 7th 2021


50347 Comments


I’m more of a liquor guy myself.

Digging: Midnight Odyssey - Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb

nolerthebowler
March 7th 2021


8472 Comments


“and accusations of being an industry plant”

hmm

nolerthebowler
March 7th 2021


8472 Comments


no hate to Ms. Natty Light, I’m sure she’s trying her best.

but yeahhhhh, she’s an industry plant

nolerthebowler
March 7th 2021


8472 Comments


you almost feel bad for the artist in these situations. Like she probably thinks people genuinely want to hear her perform, and got to where she is based off her own merits.

but nah girl, there are external factors 🙃

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 7th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Haha yeah, that’s why I had to bring that up before anything else. Trying to make an honest, earnest record can be so much harder when coming from the perspective of someone who’s already made it big from other things like social media stardom.



With that said, I still highly recommend Homesick and really wish more of the record was in the style/tone of that song

alamo
March 8th 2021


3771 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

YOU'VE BEEN LEFT ON YOUR OWN



LIKE A RAINBOW IN THE DARK



edit oops wrong thread gotta check this though she's fire as k/da eve although her 2018 ep was pretty bad lol

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 8th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I do enjoy this more than the EP, I'll say that much.



Also, thanks for getting that synth line in Rainbow in the Dark stuck in my head now

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
March 8th 2021


13600 Comments


good review dude - have never heard of ol madison beer but i do not think i would dig somehow

Digging: Julia Kwamya - Feel Good About Feeling Bad

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 8th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks! Yeah, this has the potential to be a lot better... just needed much more focus and Madison needs to find more of her own identity

alamo
March 13th 2021


3771 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i was actually pleasantly surprised by this, her ep showed zero personality and it felt like in each song she was mimicking another artist but here i think she actually commits to a distinctive vibe throughout, even if its still pretty messy. 'blue' sounds like something straight off zella day's debut though (which was already a lana del rey rip off)



'effortlessly' and 'boyshit' were the highlights to me, and 'baby' and 'stained glass' are probably gonna be on rotation as well



your review is super on point btw, didnt catch the ariana on 'rabbit' on first spin but i remember her ep had a song which sounded 100% like grande's 'moonlight'

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2021


8688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

She's definitely had a lot of accusations of Grande worship in her work, although I'd say that's not the only influence she wears on her sleeve. There's some Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, and even some Lorde in there as well. I think she's perfectly capable of developing her own style... the songwriting and vocal performances here show that she's already made plenty of progress since the debut



Thanks for the feedback btw!



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