Sam Fender’s album arrives at a time when his music style has
Sam Fender’s album arrives at a time when his music style has lost the focus of our culture. Over the past few years, rap and hip-hop have slowly overtaken rock as the dominant genre, especially amongst young people. So it seems odd that a debut rock artist is coming to us with the backing of a major label. It’s even more suprising that he is managing to make an impact.
Before his debut album was even released, he was winning awards across the pond. He was on BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2018 list and won the Critics Choice Award at this years Brits. Here in the states, he has been named both a Vevo DSCVR and Lift Artist and an MTV Push One to Watch.
These were based on his six-track 2018 EP, “Dead Boys.” These songs established him as a raw and critical songwriter focused on telling stories. He doesn’t merely write songs to talk about himself, in the tradition of singer-songwriters who came before him, like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, instead he uses his stories to critique and draw attention to flaws within our society. And at a time when the world is more connected than ever, these songs can speak to the whole world.
Fender is like a second coming of Springsteen in many ways. Sonically, The Boss’s influence can be heavily felt on tracks like “Hypersonic Missiles” and “The Borders.” Lyrically, the songs speak from a similar position as Springsteen did. A small town boy becoming a man looking at the world around him. They are well constructed stories. They come from the viewpoint of the songwriter himself, and the people that surround him. And just like Springsteen, Fender penned each track on his own, a rarity in 2019.
The album is a strong debut for Fender. He proves the potential the industry lauded upon him. And he doesn’t aim for the easy hits. He sticks to his instincts, constructing songs about topics many would avoid in this day and age. Take the track “White Privilege,” it’s a bold risk that manages to pay off. It could have easily been a track that found him in the midst of a #SamFenderIsCancelledParty. But, instead he crafted a good song about a difficult subject.
Privilege is just one on a laundry list of hot button issues covered on the album. “Hypersonic Missiles” takes on the military-industrial complex. “Two People” is about domestic abuse. “Dead Boys” highlights male suicide and mental health. Other songs discuss subjects like toxic masculinity, domestic abuse, class, urbanization and more.
While all these issues could easily bog down the music, the album is anthemic and riotous. Produced by his friend Bramwell Bronte, the songs recall notes of the classics but remain distinct in a way Harry Styles failed to on his debut. Fender has earmarked the things he has heard and liked, but his own songwriting is driven and confident enough not to get lost in them.
Fender’s voice is also a remarkable asset to him. It slides smoothly above these instrumentals, both softly and belting.
The songs are best, when they focus on specifics. Tracks like “Play God,” “Will We Talk?” and “The Borders,” stand out because of the focused detail in the verses that feel relatable, honest and tangible. Tracks like “White Privilege” and “Call Me Lover” feel weaker comparatively because their focus is too large or vague.
“Hypersonic Missiles” is a unique album for this time in music. It presents an update to a classic genre, penning in new issues and concerns for us to connect with. Like the songs that came before it, while it is specific, it maintains a sense of timelessness. It isn’t perfect, but it is bold and impressive. Fender is sure to be around for a while.