Grandson: “Death of an Optimist” album review

Daniel Ketchelos —Staff Writer

Fighting an established system is never an easy task. Grandson, a musician seeking to revolutionize the system, recently released his debut album, Death of an Optimist. Grandson’s first full-length album explores the overwhelming conflict found within the United States, with subjects ranging from personal identity, to war, to depression, and even to political activism.
Canadian American singer-songwriter Jordan Edward Benjamin, better known by his stage name “Grandson,” is making his first foray into full-length music albums. Death of an Optimist, transitions away from Grandson’s style of releasing individual songs as singles in favor of a full 12-track album.
Death of an Optimist features tracks with alt-rock/hip-hop, trap, and rap-rock genres. Stylistically, this album’s lyrics and genre resemble a modernized Rage Against the Machine, another group who focused on politically charged lyrics.
“I’m trying to make sure that everybody who listens to the music leaves with a sense of power over their life,” Grandson said in an interview with NME, “One of the hardest things when you’re going through a tough time is even being able to articulate what you’re experiencing.”
Key tracks of this album include “Identity,” “WWIII,” and “Pain Shopping.” “Identity’s” lyrics focus on the search for a lost sense of self in America. They explore America’s transition into cancel culture, confusion surrounding COVID-19, and a push against the established systems. “WWIII” is a point of view story about a young soldier experiencing PTSD from his war-time experience. This track criticizes the U.S. war machine while asking questions about the morality of modern warfare. “Pain Shopping” addresses the crisis of prescription drug addiction. The lyrics focus on the search for becoming fulfilled through prescription drugs, but ultimately, drugs leave Grandson void of feeling.
While Death of an Optimist is Grandson’s first full album, four of the twelve songs found on the album had been previously released through singles or EPs. This leaves the album feeling slightly dated.
Overall, this album raises awareness of the political instabilities facing America. Despite this, there is concern that Grandson’s music may further divide Americans. Lyrics that promote breaking away from established systems in favor of revolution may create more tension than it alleviates. It is important to acknowledge issues that face the nation, but it is not effective if it further divides the population.
“I hope people feel excited to take on the challenges that they face, rather than a sense of hopelessness,” Grandson said in an interview with NME. Fighting the system has been Grandson’s aim through his music. Critiquing the system in his three-volume E.P, “a modern tragedy,” set the foundation for his debut album.
Grandson’s first major release was “Blood // Water” from his 2018 EP, “a modern tragedy vol. 1.” This track incorporated high-energy EDM beats and lyrics focused on a population that has become a slave to the system. Currently, this is Grandson’s highest streamed track with over 250 million streams on Spotify.

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