Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: 'Death of an Optimist' is a call to the dissatisfied youth

<p>An iPhone displaying Grandson’s album “Death of an Optimist” sits Dec. 9 on a counter.</p>

An iPhone displaying Grandson’s album “Death of an Optimist” sits Dec. 9 on a counter.

The album “Death of an Optimist” is a call to action and a call to hope, despite it’s misleading title. 

Grandson, aka Jordan Benjamin, is a Canadian/American artist whose music incorporates elements from genres such as electronic, rock and hip-hop to tell stories about taking control over one’s own life and current sociopolitical events. 

“I never thought it'd come to this,” Grandson sings in the title track, referring to his fears of being forgotten and becoming nihilistic. 

Opening with a haunting melody and a soft voice singing the title on loop “Death of an Optimist” forces the listener to confront the idea of losing hope in our current age and dives into a battle for Grandson's own soul.

“Death of an Optimist” was released Dec. 4 and explores Grandson’s hope for change and the current reality of global politics by asking a question:

“Build a better world or give up the fight?” read the album synopsis on Apple Music.

This conflict is brought to life in the album as Grandson pits his own ideals against the personified version of his own cynicism and fears, an alter ego called “X”.

The two mindsets go head-to-head in the album’s 12 tracks, which handle topics such as war, anger and political activism. Through his exploration of opposing world views, Grandson showcases his own hopes and fears while commenting on the world we live in.

The album is amazing, filled to the brim with political and social commentary, set against pounding drum beats and electrifying guitar riffs. I listened to the majority of this album for the first time in my car and had to continually remind myself to stop clapping and dancing along, despite the dark nature of the songs. The album is just that good. Some songs had me dancing while others had my jaw on the floor, reeling from the meaning behind the lyrics. 

Every song on the album offers something entirely different to the overall message but like most listeners, a couple of songs stood out to me.

The second track on the album, “In Over My Head,” is a complete 180-degree flip from the tracks at the beginning of the album. Almost as if you're shooting to the top of a rollercoaster, the high energy of the guitars and the infectious clapping percussion ramp the listener up, only to drop them down the hill with the contrasting ideas of questioning authority and having dreams for the future found in the lyrics. 

The fifth track on the album, “Dirty,” is a protest song at its core, introducing the idea of taking action or staying silent in the first verse. The upbeat melody demands attention from the listener, especially when Grandson asks, “Do you have enough love in your heart, to go and get your hands dirty?” 

We Did It” is the seventh song on the album and confronts complacency as Grandson almost shouts “I'm gonna pat myself on the back 'Cause I did the bare minimum” to the heavy hits of drums only to follow the verse with “We Did it, We didn’t” in the pre-chorus, forcing the listener to confront their own activism.

Throughout his career as a musician, Grandson has used emotions and current events to send a message. Prior to the release of his first album, Grandson published “Thoughts and Prayers” which addressed school shootings and political inaction.

Like many of the songs on “Death of an Optimist,” the lyrics on “Thoughts and Prayers” packed a punch, dripping in frustration and anger.

But unlike previous singles, Grandson showcases his ability to blend current events and attitudes in a way that isn’t overtly depressing in “Death of an Optimist.” He confronts complex topics and seemingly bleak situations in a way that convinces the listener to keep moving forward. The music doesn’t just make you angry, it makes you hungry for change.  

For me, that’s where the beauty in this album lies: its ability to speak to its audience. “Death of an Optimist” speaks to the dissatisfied youth who are frustrated with the current state of the world and it speaks to those who desire change but fear inaction, and implores them to keep going. 

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