Adeem The Artist
Anniversary


3.8
excellent

Review

by DadKungFu STAFF
May 9th, 2024 | 10 replies


Release Date: 05/03/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: More powerful of a statement than Cowboy Carter, that’s for damn sure

The veritable explosion of quality queer country music in recent years has revivified a genre that had been slowly mummifying itself into a spiritually retarded Corona-sucking meathead self-parody whose only hope appeared to be either wholesale plundering of the 70s outlaw sound (Christ Stapleton, Colter Wall) or moribund Gothicisms (David Eugene Edwards, Jay Munly). Certainly, there’s not much in the way of an identifiably “queer” sound in country, if anything, artists tend to lean somewhere between the outlaw sound and the DIY qualities of folk-punk, but a deep and rich vein of conceptual material has nonetheless been unearthed by artists who may have come of age with Brooks & Dunn and Toby Keith, but who didn’t find their own life experience reflected in the songs of those artists, except in the broadest sense. And, all concurrently it seemed, these artists began to find that the pathos and grit of that arch-conservative musical style lent itself quite well to the tribulations and longings of the Southern queer experience.

Enter Adeem the Artist, an individual who is just about the antithesis of every mainstream country music trope of the last 30 years. Just as likely to don a corset and flower-print cardigan as a stetson, they’re an artist who handily knows their way around a country hook, much of their artistic influence drawing as much from the likes of Springsteen as Alan Jackson, dropping names of such poets as Guy Clark and John Prine as their musical Godfathers. And much of their lyrical content carries much the same poignancy and humbleness, if only occasionally the same wry humor as those two old desperadoes. Anniversary, the third full-length album by this Carolina native, is named simply for the date of their marriage, a nod to the simple, heartfelt nature of the material within.

In an album that’s as saturated with Adeem’s personal experience, with the pointed messages they wants to communicate, with the emotional heft and sharp wit they’re applying to their music, it’s impressive, if not surprising, that the essential experience of this album is built upon a bedrock of solid, craftsmanlike country songwriting. Musically, it’s not quite the heartbreaking, all-embracing transcendentalist laugh into the wide, open, absurd universe that we know and love from Willi Carlisle, but a far more grounded, more “traditional” country sound and aesthetic– or, at least one that at least smacks ever-so-slightly of what you might hear on the more commercial stations, if anyone being played on those stations exhibited anything analogous to a heart. The lost poignancy of little lives undone by the harsh realities of small-town living calls to mind The Killers’ Pressure Machine, with about a cupful more of wit and a more stolid tack when it comes to hookwriting– a sound that, if it weren’t for the subject matter, might easily fit along the likes of Eric Church. The way Nightmare takes the ever-present Christian fear of persecution and upends it, asking for just a modicum of empathy from those who’d claim to be representing Love incarnate; the way Nancy humorously and horrifyingly details the rock-bottom of a toxic relationship; the way One Night Stand upends both gender and narrative expectations, all are a set of lyrical mountain breezes blowing away the cobwebs of cliche. So if, like Church and others of the contemporary scene, Adeem occasionally gets a little too lyrically overwrought and on-the-nose, stumbling on a handful of lines out of the earnest and heart-on-sleeve and into the corny, especially on the self-flagellating apology piece Wounded Astronaut, it’s, for the most part, easy to move on from.

But as committed as Adeem is to voicing the personal experience of a queer artist in a social and musical climate that still doesn’t seem sure whether they should have a place in it, the themes in Anniversary are so much more relatable, so much more human and so much more compassionate towards those who might exclude them, that they leave behind such simple categories as identity politics in the dust, while never losing sight of how deeply Adeem’s experience contributes to that identity, and how deeply and humanly they get that point across. In an NPR article promoting their previous album White Trash Revelry Adeem states, “We're not saying our stories are more important than yours or more profound than yours. Just that we're here, and they're happening right beside each other.” Who could have blamed Adeem if he had gone the route of righteous indignation? But as exactly the straight, white, Christian country listener that’s heard precious little except straight, white Christian country music his entire life, what can I say except that I’d have to be a complete myopic fool not to see the relatability, and the beauty that often shows up in these songs. And I can’t help feeling that that was exactly Adeem’s intent.

So how do we say for certain this isn’t the same identity flogging for the sake of clout and unit-shifting as another, far more mainstream country album from this year? Let alone the fact that Adeem’s aesthetic is almost violently noncommercial in its flouting of anything approaching heteronormativity, the simple fact that these songs function quite well on their own merits without being propped up by any sort of media narrative should almost immediately put to bed any doubts of authenticity. Mrs. Carter, take notes. Far less than a product in which identity is a commodified vehicle for a facile simulacrum of strength and endurance, what Adeem has made here is a far truer expression, one which not only knows how to pull the heartstrings, but make them sing as well.



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user ratings (9)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2024


4894 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Many thanks to Jom for help with editing

xxm
May 9th 2024


257 Comments


Well done as always, DKF!

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2024


4894 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

As always, thanks for the encouragement!

Gameofmetal
Emeritus
May 10th 2024


11595 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

neat, will definitely take a look at this.

Hawks
May 10th 2024


88483 Comments


Shitboy Shitter

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2024


4894 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

lmao lu Hawks

Hawks
May 10th 2024


88483 Comments


Ily 2!!!

Kompys2000
Emeritus
May 10th 2024


9467 Comments


Ooh didn't know Adeem had a new one out, might have to check tho I'm not in the countryest of headspaces rn

"Wish You Would've Been A Cowboy" is a tune and a half

Gameofmetal
Emeritus
May 11th 2024


11595 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yea i dig this, nice counterpoint to Orville Peck's very grandiose vision of queer country.

kildare
May 11th 2024


286 Comments


Good to see some transgression in this genre. Actually a huge surprise in my admittedly limited personal experience of the fan base, but welcome.

And "the way Nightmare takes the ever-present Christian fear of persecution and upends it, asking for just a modicum of empathy from those who’d claim to be representing Love incarnate" really hit home for me. That's a drum I've had to bang at pretty much every family reunion over the last few decades



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