The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Ruel is sending shockwaves through the pop charts yet again. After releasing numerous singles last year, listeners can finally revel in his newest album. 4TH WALL is romantic, crushing, galactic, and messy. I need it. You need it.
“GO ON WITHOUT ME”
The album sets off with a catchy and almost goofy-sounding song. Don’t be fooled, though. Ruel races through his conscience and brings us along for the ride. The overthinking in “GO ON WITHOUT ME” is too much to bear, probably because I already overthink too much. “I wish I knew what I was doing.” Too real.
“I DON’T WANNA BE LIKE YOU”
Ouch. I rarely get so fed up with someone that I feel the need to confront them. Instead, I take out my anger with a pen and paper (and when I’m lucky, a piano too). In “I DON’T WANNA BE LIKE YOU,” Ruel lets even his most passive listeners jam out to his rhythmic frustrations.
“SITTING IN TRAFFIC”
A droopy guitar and ethereal synths transport listeners to a waltz like no other. Reality sets in when the band comes in, and Ruel’s brutal honesty might make you rethink the state of your relationship. “Darling, don’t hate me when you’re not in love,” he croons.
As always, Ruel gushes over a piano in his beautiful ballads. But in “JAPANESE WHISKEY,” he adds whistling synths for an other-worldly twist. Chords curdle behind Ruel’s echoing vocals as he lyrically gasps for air. Grab a tissue box for this one.
“GROWING UP IS ____”
A popular chord progression makes this song seem familiar from the get-go. I see myself driving alone in my hometown blasting this song to make the high school memories rush back. Growing up is weird, strange, painful, nerve-wracking, frightening, confusing, impossible. At least, according to Ruel.
“SET YOURSELF ON FIRE”
An 80s track makes “SET YOURSELF ON FIRE” sound like a music video. Ruel creates a montage of a late night with friends with slappy drums, choral vocals, and guitars that drizzle notes over the melody like hot fudge on a sundae.
Descending like a raindrop in a storm, acoustic guitar accompanies longing vocals in this painful breakup song. An abrupt ending is juxtaposed with lyrics that stab like a knife through the heart. Might need another box of tissues.
“LET THE GRASS GROW”
I listened to “LET THE GRASS GROW” when it came out as a single last year. I’ll be honest, I had to stop listening after the first few plays before it swept me away in sorrow. “Take the river to the sea / Drown myself so I don’t sink / Find my peace there underneath the hurricane.” Repetitive guitar picking mashed with surprising chords in the pre-chorus takes the listener on a journey down a river of nostalgia.
“YOU AGAINST YOURSELF”
“YOU AGAINST YOURSELF” is kinda like a smack in the face. I’ve watched friends descend into inner turmoil before, and I’ve tried to help. But sometimes, there comes a point in a relationship where all you can do is stand back and recognize that your help will never be received. It’s infuriating. Ruel captures such rage perfectly in a song you’ll wanna scream soooo loud.
“SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM”
“…I can sleep easy knowin’ / knowin’ that you’re not around / you’re someone else’s problem now.” Are you kidding? I can sleep easy knowing this song will forever be on my playlist. Edgy and passive, it’s just my style. What a groove.
“WISH I HAD YOU”
An acoustic turn brings listeners back down to earth. A string quartet washes over your scars that Ruel has been aggravating through the course of this album. But is it healing? With a seemingly misplaced major second chord in the chorus, I’d say it does more harm than help. This song just makes everything feel wrong without *that* person.
“IF AND/OR WHEN”
Lyrical wordplay is everything to “IF AND/OR WHEN.” Ruel shares his thoughtfully heartbreaking poetry alongside his staple R&B track. This song takes me back to his early days as an artist, with a couple of funky chords inserted for dramatic effect.
“MUST BE NICE”
The melody clashes with the weepy piano in another ballad that makes listeners mad about the past all over again. Remember how hurtful they were? Remember how hard it was for you to move on? All you wanted to do was talk to them one more time. “Tell me what it’s like / to sleep well every night,” you’d say. You’d scream at the top of your lungs, or maybe you’d whisper, without enough breath to support your words, “I’m barely holding on.”
In an interview with Apple Music, Ruel said “END SCENE” is based on the end scenes from Fight Club and The Truman Show. Personally, I’d love to see a cut of each with this song playing behind the actors as they… well, I won’t spoil the endings in case you haven’t seen these classics. But you should totally watch while listening to Ruel pour his heart out over strummed guitar and heavy bass.
I feel like 4TH WALL would sound even better if I had tears streaming down my face at 3 a.m. Or maybe if I was driving down a dim country road in my small town. Or if I happened to go through some sort of life-shattering heartbreak. Ruel has done it again, folks.
Stream 4TH WALL on Spotify or Apple Music. Ruel is taking 4TH WALL on tour this summer as well.