Lauv has never struggled to match self-deprecating lyrics with the most persistent of earworm melodies. Throughout his career, the US singer-songwriter’s biggest chart-storming songs have told bittersweet tales of a pop star who was always missing something – whether it was meaningful friendships on ‘fuck, i’m lonely’ with Anne-Marie, true love on ‘i’m so tired…’ with Troye Sivan or a genuine relationship on ‘Mean It’ with LANY. As NME wrote in the review for Lauv’s 2020 debut, ‘~how i’m feeling~’, the singer excels when he’s “setting vulnerable, personal insights to radio-friendly minimal pop”.
But Lauv is determined to get out of his own way on second album ‘All 4 Nothing’, having told us in a recent interview that he realised he doesn’t feel “an innate sense of deserving to be happy.” Post-breakthrough, Lauv has now created space for dizzying love, childhood wonder and chest-out confidence.
On opening track ‘26’, the star candidly describes the problem he’s ready to address. “26 and I’m rich / How the hell did it come to this?”, he sings of his disillusionment over taut strings and slack beats, before journeying back to a simpler time on the springy ‘Kids Are Are Born Stars’, an endearingly cheeky gloat to a childhood crush from the other side of success. ‘All 4 Nothing (I’m So In Love)’, meanwhile, sees Lauv finally giving into heart-swelling love over a retro rhythm and lush keys that radiate unadulterated happiness.
But ‘All 4 Nothing’ isn’t all sunshine, charting episodes across multiple timelines, whether it’s party drugs and messy love on ‘Molly in Mexico‘, existential panic on ‘Bad Trip’ or an old flame in ‘Stay Together’. Despite the range, this makes the direction feel flimsy, opening and closing too many doors and not allowing enough time to look around.
‘All 4 Nothing’ also lacks the stubborn melodies that earned Lauv his biggest viral moments, like the addictively charged vocal hook on multi-Platinum hit ‘I Like Me Better’. In contrast, the stripped-back verses and barely-there tracking of ‘First Grade’ or ‘Hey Ari’ leave little impression, while ‘Better Than This’ packs a fraction of the slick production value Lauv is capable of. This also puts a spotlight on lyrics that, at times, feel too surface-level and on-the-nose. “Thank God we never stayed together / Bought a house, had a kid, got a dog together,” he sings on ‘Stay Together’.
While there are melodic nuggets sprinkled throughout – see like the strained falsetto on ‘Time After Time’, the warped vocals on ‘26’ and the suffocating panic in Lauv’s voice on ‘Bad Trip’ – ‘All 4 Nothing’ feels a little too safe. While it’s heartwarming to see Lauv’s newfound openness, the album is – ironically, given his most persistent theme – missing a little something.
Release date: August 3
Record label: Virgin Music