Review: Gus Dapperton’s Orca is Forgettable Yet Intensely Relatable

Written October of 2020

Colorful and quirky bedroom pop artist Gus Dapperton shows a new side of him in his sophomore album, Orca. He released a more melancholy and intimate sound that may be appreciated by his biggest fans and deep thinkers, but the lack of entertainment value and consistency in identity fails to capitalize on an opportunity for greater success.

Dapperton’s modest rise to fame has come off the back of the growing popularity of bedroom pop among Gen Z. In a genre that embraces a more genuine, homemade sound that is relatable to today’s youth, the 23-year-old Brooklyn native has never failed to be himself.

Early in his career in 2017, he caught the ears of early adapters in this new genre with songs like, “I’m Just Snacking,” and “Prune, You Talk Funny.” These songs were sunny, upbeat, and an original mix of rock, pop, and synthesizing sounds. His music videos of the time complemented his brand well as they featured Dapperton in a bowl cut and nonconforming, colorful clothing as he shamelessly danced through the streets. 

Dapperton sporting a colorful bowl haircut in February of 2019. Photo by Jess Ferran

Dapperton has been mostly under the radar among the mainstream, having mostly a cult following. His 2019 feature in TikTok’s viral hit, “Supalonely,” by BENEE, however, exposed his sound to anyone willing to listen. His first album, Where Polly People Go to Read, delivers the flair that set him apart, but Dapperton could have caught the momentum of this exponentially growing, colorful, quirky wave with his latest album Orca. Unfortunately, however, his failure to stick to his identity left new listeners confused with a tamer and more depressed vibe.

Self-aware, Dapperton addresses his inner confusion with arguably one of the few memorable songs on the album, “First Aid,” which was released as a single in the spring. In the first verse, the artist solemnly sings, “Sorry ’bout my head, it’s not here / I’m still learning how to fear / I’m too spirited for one of a kind / About my head, it’s all near / But I’m learning how to steer / It’s a miracle that I still oblige.” Dapperton understands this is not his sound, nor his identity, and apologizes for it.

This confused theme is consistent throughout the album, where each song is mostly forgettable when it comes to entertainment value. He concludes the album with, “Swan Song,” where Dapperton once again addresses his inner battles in regard to his audience, “And I don’t need to know the way to your heart / And I don’t even know a good place to start / I did that to myself / I’m not asking for help.”

Dapperton shaves his signature bowl haircut. Photo by Jess Farran

The fact that Dapperton can be honest with himself and address these issues head on, might be appreciated by his biggest fans who care to see all sides of his personality. Despite the lack of consistency in sound, he still holds his imperative of being himself, which goes extremely well with the relatability of his genre. For listeners who are looking for more meaning than entertainment, this album can be a great artistic perspective to depression, where an individual understands they are not being themselves and encounter inner demons that they may not be able to clearly explain right away.

Throughout the album, it is as if the artist is screaming for help, or just throws dark thoughts into an inconclusively dark void, hoping for someone to listen. Through this perspective, he concludes the album well by exclaiming that he does not care and will not release music that is solely geared for an audience but is true to what he feels inside.

It is a shame, however, that these feelings came right as Dapperton’s career was about to take off… but isn’t that just so relatable? So, Gen Z? So, falling under the pressure? It is 2020 in an album. I give it 3 stars.   

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