Arts & Culture, Reviews

bülow sings edgy, glamorous pop

‘The Contender’ released Oct. 4 covers themes of love-lost, childhood naivety

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 24, 2019

Rising pop singer Megan Bülow, who is known by the stage name bülow, delighted fans with the Oct. 4 release of her five-track EP “The Contender.”

The German-born and Canada-based 19 year old has been praised for her songwriting skills in her past works, “Damaged Vol. 1” and “Damaged Vol. 2,” and “The Contender” only continues to uphold this reputation. Imbued with thoughtful lyrics and diverse musical arrangements, the five-song anthology is an ode to growing pains — the ugly, the beautiful and everything in between.

bülow kick-starts the album with “Own Me,” an empowering, feminist anthem that claims defiant autonomy against an unnamed person she is tired of answering to. It appears to be sung from the perspective of a protagonist who has been running from subjugation, but finally breaks free. The song is riddled with strong, spiteful and biting diction, including this poignant bridge: “I know that you probably wish that I would just back down / Would that make you happy? / But you should know that / I would rather die / Than to watch you have that finale.” bülow uses her lyrics to defiantly taunt her threatener — refusing to be controlled any longer. The usurping of this power dynamic is amplified by the static synth of the background guitar and the overlapping of bülow’s many autotuned vocals. Together, the lyrical and musical elements coalesce, immersing the listener in sound.

Next up in the tracklist is the lead single “Boys Will Be Boys,” released Sept. 19. Before the EP’s release, the song racked up more than one million Spotify streams on its own. Although a much lighter tune and tale than “Own Me,” this song is a continuation of that same confident, girl power energy. The opening line is a light yet powerful punch to the gut of her ex-lover: “I’m going all-white to your funeral / If you think I’m gonna cry, you’re delusional.” Then, the chorus repeats religiously: “Boys will be boys, boys, boys / Break heart like toys, toys, toys / Now fuck all that noise, noise, noise,” ardently warning her fellow ladies against falling for pretty-boy heartbreakers. The song’s playful, bold percussion beats and lighthearted pop tune are a celebration of lessons well-learned from a heartbreak well-spent. Indeed, this song is proof that bülow is no longer mourning, but moving on.

In “Puppy Love,” bülow collaborates with artist Jimi Somewhere to bring fans a nostalgic, hope-filled narrative. The lyrics explore a myriad of themes: childhood, dreams and uncertainty. bülow calls upon the childlike optimism that many of us once had: “I, be poppin’ wheelies on my bike / Be doing something with my life / Everything gon’ be fucking fine.” By re-cultivating a “puppy love” for life, she appears to be telling both herself and her listeners that everything will work out, like it always could when they were young. Consistent with this piece’s contemplative and nostalgic sentiment, its musicality follows suit. Relying on a retro, authentic guitar melody and a shouting vocal chorus in the background, the song echoes the techniques widely used in popular music eras of the past.

“Upside Down” then proceeds to show fans a truly vulnerable side of bülow. Accompanied by the strum of a reverb electric guitar, bülow questions all motives and purposes for love, evidently defeated by her pursuit of it. Lost and at a standstill, she constantly searches for answers: “What the fuck you fall in love for? / Couldn’t I have been enough for you?” she asks, continuing “Broken hearts they turn my world upside down / I don’t know anymore, what’s the right way around?” The lyrics are direct, amplifying the desperation embedded within them. As the EP’s longest and most somber song, this piece is a testament to the sadness, loneliness and confusion that many listeners can empathize with.

Finally, the last song is “Sundress,” which is hands down the stylistic standout of the five. Unlike the other songs, which all contain some implementation of electronic music and percussive beats, this one is utterly raw in its approach. bülow’s voice is raspy, unfiltered and authentic. The melody is composed of unaltered, uninterrupted acoustic guitar. Structurally, the song is completely different as well — it lacks a chorus and a bridge, instead laying out three verses to tell a vaguely linear narrative. Indeed, it reveals a completely different persona of bülow — earning the song it’s place as the EP’s finale track.

Ultimately, “The Contender” continues the twist on the pop genre that bülow introduced with her debut in 2017: darker, punchier and certainly trippier. Each song within this album exhibits an individualistic exploration, enrapturing and enticing listeners with every hit of the play button.

bülow is currently on tour with the artist Lauv, who is famous for viral pop hits including “I Like Me Better (When I’m With You),” paving a path toward future success.

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