Madison Beer's As She Pleases: Reviewed
By Lexi Vollero
Nearly six years of fame went into the these 21 minutes of music. With her 10.7 million Instagram followers and famously flawless face, Madison Beer, 19, was first launched to the spotlight by Justin Bieber, who tweeted a video of the then 13-year-old singing that quickly went viral. Six years later, she is touring Europe and the United States to promote her seven-track debut album.
Two of the seven tracks were released as singles, so going into the album, I already had a sense of it’s synth-heavy, electronic instrumentation. Although the production style remains similar throughout the album, Beer successfully differentiates between tracks through unique hooks and tone shifts. Beer can distinctively pull off both breathy vocals and belts. Through this, she tells a classic coming-of-age story, characterized by self-discovery (mostly through romantic encounters), heartbreak, defiance, and learning about love at an age when romantic love can seem like the biggest thing in the world. A cookie-cutter pop album, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The album’s standout track is “HeartLess,” a sultry, dark song about desperate drunk calls. The soft, trap beat coupled with Beer’s delicate, head-voice vocals communicates a sense of despair and helplessness as she is repeatedly burned by the man on the other end of the receiver. Another notable song is “Home With You,” in which Beer defiantly puts a player in his place and indiganty spells out that “no means no”. The song’s confident narrative is further backed by a driving, swaying backbeat that is reminiscent of reggae instrumentation. Fans speculate that these songs speak to her recent breakup with longtime boyfriend and internet star Jack Gilinsky. After dating since 2014, the couple confirmed their split in July of 2017. Audio clips were leaked of Gilinsky verbally abusing her. Whatever the case, Beer sounds like she has a reason to sing. The more light-hearted tracks “Tyler Durden” and “Teenager in Love” feel uninspired and stale by comparison.
The heavily produced and autotuned quality of the album don’t really bother me. However, it appears that these tools are used to cover up some notable vocal weaknesses. Her performances of “Say It to My Face” on MTV’s TRL and “Home With You” at the Maybelline Urban Catwalk Show clearly expose inconsistencies in her vocal control and instances of the album’s tracks being out of her comfortable singing range (e.g. her trouble hitting the low F3 and G3 in 0:45-0:50 of her “Home With You” performance). The album would be much stronger if she stuck to showcasing her strengths, such as vocal riffs and her unique tone.
Regardless of these weaknesses, though, her loyal fanbase cultivated through her social media following are quick to deliver praise and support her, especially where music critics cannot. Nothing seems to change the fact that her brand is powerful.