Dream – to whoever wants to hear

by info.vocallyrics@gmail.com
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More known for picking up Streamy Awards for gaming (a three-time champ) than dropping music, online presence and Minecraft YouTuber Dream has released his first official collection of music after racking up over 40 million subscribers on his channel. And since it was released on what might be the quietest week since the earliest days of the pandemic, here we are talking about it. As you might expect when it comes to non-musicians taking the easy route of leveraging their fame into quick, listenable soundbites that can rack up the streaming numbers, Dream’s seven-track EP is full of cliches used by some of the musicians who come up most often on playlists made by people who don’t actually listen to music, faux-inspirational and melodramatic lyricism about believing in yourself and the like, and over-processed, nearly unlistenable vocals. While it’s become increasingly funny for non-fans to express vitriolic dislike over everything Dream does since his much-anticipated face reveal went south, his work can be simply inoffensive and bland enough to not fully deserve some of the scores he’s been getting. Still, there’s almost nothing to be found here for a serious music listener.

If you figure you’ve heard the idea of describing the day an artist was born, progressing steadily through their life and offering milestones reached at a variety of years, somewhere before – it’s because you have. Whether it was from AJR, Lukas Graham or any other much-maligned artist of their ilk, there’s something about this kind of cheesy music meant to be played in the background of motivational videos created by people who aren’t looking to do much but emotionally manipulate people into giving them their money that often lands on the same lyrical and sonic touchpoints. With rhymes like “I was six when I got my fix” and learning that “life can be a little mean” while living behind a screen on opening track “Slow Down,” Dream’s chorus is echoey and filtered out, a higher octave in the background that feels entirely computer-generated sounding pretty awful. It’s made abundantly clear over the course of the EP that Dream is not a singer, which might have been fine if he had anything at all to say – or sounded like he cared about what he had to say when he touches on something that might mean something to someone. The funny thing is that with a central melody that somewhat succeeds at capturing the wistful feeling the track about living in the moment wants to capture, as well as drum n’ bass percussion that livens things up a little for the listener, “Slow Down” might be the best song on the album.

Speaking of much-maligned artists, there’s something about the way Dream overenunciates all of his melodramatic, shoehorned rhymes over sadboi acoustics on “Kind of Love” that truly makes him sound like a member of the Chainsmokers. Apparently about the bond that he shares with his sister, trying to musically reconnect after having had a falling out with her, the actual performance on the track makes it seem a lot more like Dream is simply trying to think of some kind of experience he’s had that might be emotional to somebody else, because it seems like he doesn’t personally care or believe in what he’s saying at all. The discordant harmonies on the track continue to prove that he probably shouldn’t be singing at all in the first place, with no amount of vocal digitization able to help him. The whiny talk-singing of “Paranoid” doesn’t achieve the degree of being flippant and cool that they were clearly aiming for, and dropping into the chorus with another Dr. Seuss-esque rhyme – “I’m on the fence, don’t be dense” – as the music cuts out is a recipe for hilarity. The track feels right in line with other less-notable online gaming channels that release music, like some of the viral Five Nights at Freddy’s tracks: just pick an evocative word like “paranoid,” come up with the most basic rhymes, play a standard four-chord guitar progression, then put it through vocal filters, tune the word of your choice to a couple different notes, and you have a song to play in the background of a video as you’re asking people to subscribe.

Seemingly a dedication to his partner – opening with “you’re the only one I stan” aside – “Spotlight” is genuinely a decently written pop track when it comes to the formulae and the science behind what sticks: it’s got an upbeat vibe and centers around a couple of catchy rhymes, making it quite reminiscent of recent summer hit “Sunroof,” but it’s completely let down once again by Dream’s performance. It’s the kind of song where you need a charismatic force to deliver it like it’s the only thing that matters, and Dream’s emotionless, dead-eyed mumble still exists here, continuing onto the next track “Everest” in an even worse manner because the song’s chorus is the most anthemic here. Dream scrambling to nail the higher notes makes him come across like someone who’s trying to cash the cheque without trying to make it appear like he cares too much about what he’s doing, because he thinks that would be perceived as lame. It’s an odd strategy to sell your music, but that kind of attitude is exemplified even further by a Yung Gravy feature. Gravy doesn’t tone down his material to the sanitized, kid-friendly stuff Dream is presenting here and is a complete tonal mismatch, but he’s here off of the online buzz attached to his name alone. Not only that, but the beat fully sounds like it comes from the Undertale soundtrack.

The final two tracks dial up the emo inflections for whatever reason, as “Invincible (like u)” continues to offer some more emotional lyrics about his family. Of course, they don’t really touch on anything deep, just the same kind of vague gesturing at something that could be interpreted differently by whoever, because it seems once again like there aren’t any substantial emotions hidden under the surface based on the way Dream sings these thoughts. Another sleepy track with some blown-out overproduction of an acoustic pop template, it leads into “Until I End Up Dead,” because we need to have a track where we gesture at dying soon for some reason when it comes to music in this vein. Sounding like it was created in a boardroom that advised Dream to say “existential dread” in a cheery tone because it’s what the kids like to joke about online, it’s topped off by a chopped-up little whoop noise that sounds like a car skidding along the road or a malfunctioning robot to leave listeners off on something as unpleasant as the rest.

It’s abundantly clear that while this EP is presented as music on the surface, it’s more of an extension of a brand than anything else. There have been a lot of YouTubers with music over the years. I pray that there aren’t any more that get this much attention.

Favourite Tracks: Slow Down, the Yung Gravy verse on Everest

Least Favourite Track: Paranoid

Score: 2/10

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