Dominic Fike can do no wrong. The incredibly photogenic 24-year old Florida native with coloured hair, wide eyes, and face tattoos just released his debut studio album and is changing pop music for the better.
In times like today when nobody knows which direction pop music is going, Fike made an album that could predict the future by fusing hip hop with alternative pop sounds. He is described as a genre-bending chameleon with an alluring voice. With his own unique sound, he makes it impossible to categorize his music into one specific genre. In a debut album full of rapping over indie-pop beats and electric guitar power chords, there is an overbearing rock influence. What Could Possibly Go Wrong is an insanely successful first project for a young artist.
When he pushed back the album release date to the end of the month, Dominic took to Instagram and released a powerful statement regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. “My life has felt cursed since I was a little kid… I’ve since realized the real curse is the system we live in is designed for us to lose, again and again. They wanted us to disappear.”
While on house arrest in 2017, he recorded his first EP, Don’t Forget About Me, Demos at the age of 21 which landed him a record deal with Columbia. He later went to jail for violating that house arrest, then his career skyrocketed to the charts with the release of “3 Nights.” The song went viral and was shared on socials by the likes of DJ Khaled, Chance the Rapper, Billie Eilish, a few Kardashians – Oh, and was casually added to Obama’s best-of-2019 playlist. Billboard named him a breakout act to watch after this catchy tune caught the attention of Brockhampton’s Kevin Abstract, who later directed an alternative music video for the song. In Brockhampton’s feature video “This Is Dominic Fike,” fans learn his obsession with lavender to calm his anxieties about being on camera and his sudden urges to do backflips at any given moment. After several collaborations with the hip hop boy band and his own song on Halsey’s latest album, Fike is breaking hearts and changing minds in the perception of pop music.
The album is off to a loud attention-grabbing start with, “Come Here.” The Florida singer previewed the opening tune in a 16 minute YouTube video where he jumped out of an airplane to promote the album… or in his words, “getting skyboned with a song from my new album playing in the back.” With electric guitar slides and irritating vocals on grungy production, he quickly sets the scene that the album will be an unexpected journey full of messy plot twists.
He raps, sings, and plays guitar on nearly every track. “Double Negative (Skeleton Milkshake)” is a happy and catchy pop tune about feeling out of place, with a clever title. “Cancel Me” is smart. He is saying something socially political while masking it with a pop beat. ‘Cancel culture’ is today’s way of public shaming, or boycotting a target on the internet. Fike raps, “I hope I never ever have to go on TV / Jimmy Kimmel does not wanna meet me / I told my manager, ‘No more parties in Los Angeles’” Although it seems somewhat cliche, it is clear that Fike does not want to conform to the so-called LA musician lifestyle that could either make or break an individual as an artist. We are left to question if the lyrics are genuine, or did somebody else write this on behalf of him?
There is a soft orchestral interlude with “10x Stronger.” The songs are short. The whole album is 14 songs that run for a mere half an hour. Just as the songs start to get good, they are over before you are able to really get into them. Although brief in length, this guitar-based indie-pop-rap-rock album still feels like a complete project. With an open-minded mentality on each unique track, Fike can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
He takes a synth-rock turn with the nod-along, “Good Game.” It seems like a message to himself when he says, “Don’t you become your daddy / Boy you show so much promise,” since his father has recently been incarcerated. He has never been shy about sharing his family struggles and accomplishments; like his brothers being taken away, then buying his mom a new house in Florida.
The lively, “Why” is a great summer evening song. Those summer evenings between 8:00pm – 9:00pm when the sun has set, but not fully set… that type of song. It has a Rex Orange County hook that will have indie-pop enthusiasts foaming at the mouth.
The first single, “Chicken Tenders” lies right in the middle of the album. It was released at the end of June, almost one short month before the album drop. He blends his typical alternative pop with a dash of R&B on this one. It has a catchy chorus about living in luxury and basking in the little things, like having chicken tenders with his lover in a hotel room. In 2018 he said “3 nights at the hotel” and in 2020 he’s saying “Chicken tenders in my hotel.” A full-circle moment.
When Apple Music’s Zane Lowe asked him if he listens to his own music, Fike shared that he has extreme feelings about his music. At first, he claims to be a narcissist and listens to his songs millions of times, then over the next couple days, the self-loathing thoughts kick in and he cannot stand listening to his own tracks. Fike is fairly open about his struggles with anxiety, and the whole album is a thrill ride. “What’s for Dinner?” is a simple, yet awesome and intimate song with a distorted voice singing the chorus, “Breathe, darlin’ don’t defy our needs / Simple things make a difference in your day / Take the time to tell me how it ended up this way.” He reminds not only himself but all of us to breathe.
On “Vampire,” we get a taste of a traditional hip hop song with rapped verses and a repeating chorus, “I only showed up to tell you / Everyone at this party’s a vampire.” In an era of sad internet boys, he is scratching the Gen Z aesthetic itch for a relatable scrawny skater boy who makes hip hop music for pop fans. The versatility of his artistry does not stop. He shares vulnerable feelings with “Superstar Shit,” when he says, “I try to force my smile, but can’t deny that.” He may be a reckless kid from Florida making songs about being young with pink buzz-cut and a tattooed apple under his right eye, but he owns it. He has continuously shown his gratitude for being able to make music because he assumes no one will hire him to do anything else.
The second and final single, “Politics & Violence” was released just a few weeks ago. It is littered with multiple genres, then it takes a turn halfway through and feels like two different songs in one. The title speaks for itself on perhaps one of his best songs yet. By breaking barriers within pop music, Dominic Fike unconsciously gives others permission to do the same.
His intense energy and scattered brain shine in “Joe Blazey.” Who isn’t a sucker for some high-pitched chipmunk vocals? Along with the previous track, it is one of two beat-switching two-parters. An audio recording of a friend saying “We’re going to the store, FaceTime if you need anything” interrupts the middle of the song, after sharing he is having a panic attack. For an anxious person, it is so clear that he channels all of that nervous energy into making these addictive high-tempo tracks that feel so good. And he does it so well.
He references a Wurlitzer electric piano on “Wurli” as he sings about being in a toxic relationship with youthful optimism. “This is not love / I’m a glorified doorstep.” This beachy, lo-fi tune makes the whole album a summer soundtrack with vibrant and sunny sounds. He ends his debut record reflecting on his hometown. “Florida” turns into a rap heavy song about “not taking shit too seriously.” There is turbulent emotion in his songwriting, and it is especially evident on the autobiographical ending of the album, “Cold inside and I’m a Southern Florida boy / Shoulda told the judge to before they locked me up / It ain’t shit in the universe that could stop me.” It slowly fades out and acts as the perfect album closer.
He is taking pop music and completely turning it on its head with a glitchy guitar-pop flare. As much as he is a wild artist on the rise, he still dreams about the future while making catchy songs on his bedroom floor. He expresses that, “I hope a kid like me will listen to my music.”
Fike’s rise to superstardom was inevitable after labels fought over him to sign a record deal a few years ago. No matter what kind of music he would end up producing, it is safe to assume that his charismatic image would carry his musical success. On What Could Possibly Go Wrong, he proves himself to be much more than just a one-hit-wonder. “Similar Artist” categories are malfunctioning with confusion. You cannot put him in a box. He showed up as a melodic rapper, turned into a profound lyricist, and continues to defy every music genre with ridiculous talent.
His debut album has been 3 years in the making, and Dominic Fike shows he has a lot of momentum to keep going, all the while backflipping and sniffing lavender. There is something so compelling about him as a human being, and it will be very interesting to see where he goes from here as an artist. With this carefree go-with-the-flow music-making mindset… What could possibly go wrong?
Dominic Fike’s What Could Possibly Go Wrong is out now via Columbia Records.
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