Before the release of her debut album, Madison Beer defined Life Support as her catharsis, her lifeline, something that guided her through immensely challenging mental states. The record sonically weaves her experiences with prescription drugs, failed relationships, and suicidal thoughts together as Beer opens her diary for the world to view.
Fans from the beginning know that this record has been a long time coming for Beer, and Life Support is a testament to the artist’s resilience. At the young age of 13, Beer signed with Island Records, shortly after Justin Bieber discovered her talents via YouTube. The artist attributes her feelings of isolation directly to her sudden leap into stardom. After Beer refused to create music that would put her on the map with child actors and Radio Disney stars, Island Records dropped her three years after they signed her. Eight years later, Beer finally released her debut project under Epic Records.
Life Support is the definition of a freshman album through and through. It’s a solid entry point for the young artist, but Beer openly plays chameleon throughout the record, mimicking sounds from Lana Del Ray to Radiohead and Evanescence, to name a few. This acts as a dual-edged sword, highlighting Beer’s variability while simultaneously hiding her in plain sight. Coupled with flighty lyricism on the first half of the record and an average song length of two minutes and thirty-eight seconds, some of Beer’s best moments are simply not explored to their fruition.
Beer explores unique wordplay in the chorus of “Good in Goodbye.” This is one of the five tracks that fans have wrestled with prior to the album’s release, where Beer fixates on a breakup: “You put the ‘over’ in lover, put the ‘ex’ in next / Ain’t no ‘I’ in trouble, just the ‘U’ since we’ve met.”
This level of wordplay would have amplified the rest of the project, as many of the lyrics look substantial on the surface but lack any true meaning. For example, Beer rehashes another breakup on “Blue” when she lofts, “You could be sweet as honey / but I knew the darkness in your mind / We were like a gorgeous bed of roses / Ready to die any minute.”
There’s a potent push and pull in this album. While Beer mentions that the album is intended to be played in order from start to finish, that sentiment seems all but realistic when the artist flip-flops between a sad melody on “Default,” to the bombastic bass in “Follow The White Rabbit,” and falls back into another sad melody. Rinse and repeat, as this pattern rears itself at nearly every junction of the project. In terms of a once through, the current track arrangement is distracting and muddles Beer’s message. It may leave listeners asking, “Does she want me to explore her story or not?”
Oh, and the comically misplaced “Rick and Morty” sample on “Homesick” that nearly invalidates the beautiful three and a half minutes that took place prior? The removal of this jarring and corrosive sample from the track would be a textbook definition of addition by subtraction.
Logical flow aside, each of these tracks are formidable pages into Beer’s hypothetically aforementioned diary. In that regard, the budding artist knocked this project out of the park. As humans, we feel different emotions each day. Keeping the diary analogy in mind, the project gains a minor sense of cohesion. Revisiting individual tracks on good days and others on emotional days seems more sensical than listening to the project from start to finish.
The album shines on tracks including “Selfish,” “Baby,” “Stained Glass,” and of course, “BOYSHIT.” Beer takes the time to explore her thoughts on each of these tracks, which result in positive messages. Affirmation for these tracks may stem from the fact that they were also released as singles leading up to the “Life Support” release on February 26.
“Selfish” explores Beer’s acceptance that some relationships are simply not sustainable. She expresses that it’s best for both parties to walk away and move on. “Baby” and “BOYSHIT” embody Beer’s positivity, letting the world know that anyone can unleash their inner badass with a bit of self-love and respect. A level of maturity emerges as these moments walk away from the doom and gloom, allowing listeners to see a sense of hope; a light at the end of this rollercoaster ride.
(“BOYSHIT” should be played as loud as your current social norms allow.)
Gripes aside, while the project seems jumbled and messy at times, Beer can take pride in leaving her heart on the line. She alludes to her story throughout the project, which fans will undoubtedly latch onto.
As a fan of the majority of this album, Beer’s future is bright.
When Beer stays on topic, she shines; when she rushes through her ideas, the results are lackluster. That’s simply the long and the short of it.
Life Support is out now.