Blackbear – In Loving Memory
Released: August 26, 2022
Blackbear’s last release, everything means nothing, was an absolute highlight of 2020 pop music. With singles like ‘hot girl bummer‘ and ‘queen of broken hearts‘, the emo pop artist has an infusion of genres laced throughout his music. His heavily anticipated follow-up, in loving memory, marks a slight step back and pays homage to the musician’s roots in alternative/rock. With the help of blink-182 and drummer extraordinaire Travis Barker, In Loving Memory is also Barker’s latest collaboration in his scheme to carry the pop punk genre onto future generations. Let’s see how well they’ve done here…
My overall initial thoughts were “this honestly feels like Avril Lavigne’s Love Sux 2.0″. Except the lyrical content was way too sad and emo, and the thing is, I sway towards pop punk records for its equal balance of sad and happy emotions. Many of the tracks build on the toxic behaviours we’ve all felt and gone through while exploring relationships, and I didn’t really hear as many elated emotions of the feel-good “love” hormone. Avril nailed that balance and journey earlier this year on Love Sux, and Demi Lovato also gave us quite the impactful journey with the transition to their rockier roots, HOLY FVCK last week. Halfway into In Loving Memory, I was getting pretty bored with the content and I was really just anticipating when the climax of the record was going to come — In Loving Memory really lacked that lyrical progression and flow that listening to an album should give us. Spoiler alert: the turning point actually came about far too late, on the final track with the acoustic, loved up jam ‘Hazel Inside‘.
In saying that though, some of these songs are standout bangers tuned perfectly in the key of what pop punk in 2022 sounds like. Take the explosive throwback to the Myspace era collaboration ‘Toxic Energy‘ featuring Bert McCracken of The Used. Ever since its drop last month, this song has been at the top of my On Repeat playlist. Throughout its affluent emo/rock melody and McCracken’s grungey vocal elements, this is a Song of the Year contender. Its follow-up track ‘Nothing Matters‘ in contrast, is a poppier upbeat and bright track, despite bleak lyrics of “I’m feeling like nothing matters tonight”. New Found Glory frontman Jordan Pundik adds his touch to the record across the bridge, which gives the overall song an instant throwback to 2007.
While ‘Dead Inside‘ makes you feel otherwise through its contagious melodies and will get you up on your feet, it’s the somber-feeling ‘Broken World‘ that’ll have you feeling all that self-doubt coming back in droves. Maybe it’s because lately I’ve been working hard on getting myself into a positive mental attitude, and that’s why most of the content on this record really didn’t do it for me. ‘Painkiller‘ in the meantime though, had me feeling all the good things. That high-energy hook driving the song is magic to my ears — cheers Travis for maintaining your trademark drumming in the spotlight.
‘fuilu‘ — standing for ‘f**k you i love you’ — is an all-too relatable anthem for all your situationships and almost-relationships. We hear ya Blackbear, any break up, short or long term, hurts. The process of falling in love is tough and to be honest, a lot of us just get way too into our heads about everything. Despite that though, this track is addictive with that emo pop melody reaching my ears and has currently made its home, rent-free in my mind. ‘The Idea‘ is also another banger that hasn’t left my playlist since its release. It definitely took me back to my teenage years, when I was playing way too much Usher and Frankie J in my pre-emo R&B phase. We all had one, quit lying to yourself.
The real standout track of In Loving Memory though is ‘Poltergeist‘. This one is so edgy and… HEAVY! As heavy as Blackbear can go. Straight up, the intro riff is reminiscent of underground alternative/emo, so it’s very fitting that Bayside’s Anthony Raneri is the fourth and final collab appearing on the album. Perhaps this is the turning point of the record, where the guitars send it next level, adding that extra oomph to what is your standard mainstream pop punk record. This go-hard-or-go-home energy continues onto ‘Back in Rehab‘. The guitars here sound absolutely insane, especially over that post-chorus bridge, we get a stellar pop punk almost-breakdown in a similar key to Blink-182 and Yellowcard.
The backend of In Loving Memory was definitely more succinct on all fronts. From the lyrics to those catchy melodies, from ‘Poltergeist‘ onwards, Blackbear has displayed his passion and appreciation towards all musical styles immensely, conveying his trademark sound in a new light. Before the final curtain drops, he manages to keep it altogether with the heartfelt acoustic jam ‘Hazel Inside‘ and as I mentioned earlier, it is the one song on this album that celebrates all our elated feelings and emotions when getting to know someone new. The line “It’s just sucha vibe with you all the time…” honestly sums up our feelings towards every awesome memory that appears in our lives.
What began as an album that felt like it was going to go down a poppier route, definitely picked up midway through. While the lyrical journey to me felt somewhat unfinished, In Loving Memory is a cohesively-sound record and overall a thrill to listen to. Blackbear is absolutely one of the more talented pop artists of the last five years, and this record is a testament to his ongoing talent.
Are we all over seeing Travis Barker on everything though? Probably, but we appreciate his passion towards keeping the scene alive. Here’s hoping his next project will be that new Blink-182 record featuring Tom Delonge.
Blackbear – In Loving Memory tracklisting:
1. I Don’t Love Me
2. Dead Inside
3. Toxic Energy (featuring Bert McCracken from The Used)
4. Nothing Matters (featuring Jordan Pundik from New Found Glory)
5. GFY (featuring Machine Gun Kelly)
6. Broken World
8. F*ck U I Love U
9. The Idea
10. Poltergeist (featuring Anthony Raneri from Bayside)
11. Back in Rehab