Gold Rush Kid finds George Ezra co-opting TikTok music-making trends to abysmal effect.
George Ezra, with his signature deep baritone and radio-friendly pop sensibilities, opts for a switch-up on Gold Rush Kid, his third full-length LP, deviating slightly from the sound that has brought him to this point. Stepping away from the “guy with a guitar” genre, he takes a running leap into the bombastic electronic territory of a group like, say, Glass Animals, but the result is unfortunately lacking, completely fading what has made his career an interesting follow up until this point.
In the mid-2010s, it was hard to go much of anywhere without hearing “Budapest” filling public spaces. Every grocery store, bank, and dentist’s office managed to have that song piped into their building at least once or twice a day, and while this single was such a big hit largely on the strength of its sing-along chorus, it still lead to significant artistic clout for Ezra, especially in the UK, his nation of origin. The rest of his catalog didn’t manage to land with the same aplomb in the U.S., but the musician did manage to become a mainstay at mid-day festival slots and afternoon talk show performances. While that characterization may sound like a dig, these were legitimate techniques of the time that many artists used to leverage their popularity in new-to-them markets, a gambit that lent the highest chance of propelling them to international stardom.
But that era has passed, and the age of viral performances and TikTok soundbites has fully arrived, making unlikely stars left and right. With this in mind, it seems that Ezra is making yet another attempt with Gold Rush Kid at propelling himself to greater international recognition, but it’s all executed in a way that feels completely empty and void of any understanding of what actually makes these sounds so popular. Rather than making music that could theoretically go along with a video or have a dance accompanying them — the most common way to ascend via TikTok, a savvy maneuver regardless of your opinion — he instead merely imitates the earwormy tracks that have already become popular on the platform, co-opting the sonic textures that come closest to fitting into his wheelhouse. The result is as cheap as that tactic sounds: bland, insipid, and largely unlistenable. While he touts the record as his most intimate, with a focus on introspection, whatever lyrical framework he’s describing completely disappears within a haze of soulless pop motion-going.
Lest this all sound too much like a boomer-y condemnation of new modes, let’s be clear: there are myriad ways to accrue listeners and cultural currency, to bend music to viral ends, few of which adhere to any binary rulebook. But Gold Rush Kid is an excellent example of what not to do, specifically the wholesale imitation of what was popular a year ago, which is eons in this brave new world of the 30-minute trend cycle. Hopefully George Ezra realizes this and rebounds with something that actually holds the emotional intimacy he claims to be aiming for. Given his style, that could be a worthwhile avenue. Gold Rush Kid is as dead as ends come.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2022 | Part 2.