Ruel breaks ‘4th Wall’ in new album

Laidback, emotive and real. All words can be used to describe Ruel’s debut album “4th Wall.” The album, which dropped March 3, covers topics such as heartbreak, recovery and growing up over 14 songs, all from a wise Gen-Z eye. 

Born Ruel Vincent van Dijk, the British-Australian artist is known for having catchy beats that contrast serious lyrics. Releasing his debut EP “Ready” in 2018, Ruel found success through his 2019 love song “Painkiller” and the soulful, mellow pop of the 2020 EP “Bright Lights, Red Eyes.” Told through a variety of genres, “4th Wall” reflects the roller coaster of maturing in a self-aware, brutally honest manner.

Off the bat, “GO ON WITHOUT ME” brings upbeat, snappy pop to the table. Upon a second listen, the listener discovers the lyrics deliver the story of letting a crush down by telling them to move on while they’re ahead.

Later on, the underlying motives are revealed through “JAPANESE WHISKEY.” The piano-laden song is a metaphor for thinking a relationship will be perfect, only for it to become the complete opposite. Lyrics like “we only fall in love with things that ain’t really real” and “I can’t decide/if I like it or just can’t let go” dig deep into the psyche of what teens go through, the balance of deciding if young love is meant for them. 

The loss deepens through songs like “SITTING IN TRAFFIC” and “LIE.” The former song is a beautiful ballad highlights being devastated about the promise of being friends post-breakup. Sob-inducing crooning lyrics such as “don’t ever hate me when we’re not in love” show just how deep the love runs. The latter is an acoustic track telling an ex to lie and say they’re still taking a while to recover when they’ve clearly moved on. 

Covering all stages of grief, Ruel pens anger in retort and relief. “I DON’T WANNA BE LIKE YOU” takes a modern twist on hatred. Surprisingly positive, the song digs at the immaturity of the ex and realizing leaving them is for the better. “SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM” is a sly, snarky remark about “rain finally letting up” and “dodging a bullet” of not having to deal with an ex anymore. 

Heartbreak isn’t the only feeling young adults experience. A tumultuous twister of change, “GROWING UP IS ___” discusses the commonalities of growing up and trying to manage yourself through it all. “SET YOURSELF ON FIRE” reassures listeners it’s okay to not know where they’re heading in life and to have fun while figuring it out. 

Teen angst takes center stage on “YOU AGAINST YOURSELF.” The infectious beat of drums and guitar blends to create a message of needing to get it together. Truthfully harsh lyrics of “you’re going out almost every night/and you wonder why you feel f–ked up” act as a wake-up call to let listeners know they’re the only person who can pull themselves out of trouble.

“MUST BE NICE” closes out the album with an anthem of still struggling to be happy when everyone else is. The piano creates a melancholic lullaby of a melody of the listener sitting in grief, trying to pick up all the pieces of what’s been left. 

Just entering his twenties, Ruel’s already experienced a lot of life and is not afraid to bear his feelings about it all through illustrative storytelling. Without a doubt, Ruel is just getting started with his success and he’s bringing us along for the ride. 

Header Photo: Ruel’s 4TH WALL is out now via Sony Music Australia/RCA. (Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stones Australia)

Write to Emma Johnson at emma.johnson.5@mnsu.edu

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