Ram Jams: ‘elated!’

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VIA HOLLYWOOD RECORDS

By GILLIAN RUSSO

Genre: Pop

On a Playlist With: Lorde, Billie Eilish, blackbear, Sia

I’ve been a fan of Bea Miller since we were both makeup-rejecting, “edgy” teenagers in 2013. I’ve only come to love her music more over the years as we each channeled that energy into becoming cynical young adults, now both 21.

And what better time than now for a healthy dose of cynicism.

There’s the uptick in COVID-19 cases and a trainwreck of an election season, not to mention our run-of-the-mill loneliness and disillusionment, of course. Miller’s latest EP “elated!” covers it all.

I believe you’re meant to interpret “elated!” as you would a stressed, exhausted college kid saying they’re “super” when asked how they’re doing. In other words, the EP is tailor-made for (and by) the droll Gen Z-er who’s joked about regressing into their teenage self during quarantine. You know, the one who spent the last six months with the songs they listened to as an angsty teenager on repeat. (Not that, uh, I would know.) 

Miller clearly establishes the tone right away in the album’s opener, the cheeky “hallelujah”: “And maybe I should see a therapist / But the apocalypse is probably gonna take us out,” she sings.

Miller also makes references to “Nazis in a big white house” and living in hell. It’s a bit on the nose, which I normally dislike, but it’s thoroughly entertaining thanks to the bouncy piano beneath. Like Paramore’s “Hard Times,” you almost forget how upsetting the lyrics are because the (fairly) peppy beat makes for a certified bop. The same goes for just about all the songs on this album.

From “hallelujah” we move to “FEEL SOMETHING DIFFERENT,” a dance remix of Miller’s hit 2019 ballad “feel something.” From singing about believing she’s broken because she feels numb on “feel something,” we now see her broken by an overabundance of emotion: “I have so many feelings / I can feel something wrong with me.” 

Most of the following lyrics are the same as the original, but the rapper Aminé joins in this time with a verse. The outro sees Aminé singing “Want you, yes / F— you, yes,” and Miller responding, “Nothin’ left / Gave you the rest / Tried my best,” suggesting she opened herself up and now regrets it. I wonder if the inspiration came from a common source as a later track, the slow jam “making bad decisions,” which I think is pretty self-explanatory.

There’s also “i never wanna die,” a forgettable but sweet drunken love confession in the vein of Taylor Swift’s “Gorgeous,” and “forever is a lie,” another politics-infused track à la “hallelujah.” Miller tries to critique marriage, heteronormativity, fake news and loaded promises like “forever” in three short minutes, so her treatment of all ends up shallow. She offers an honest alternative to the title problem — “I’ll lovе you for tonight / But I can’t promise tomorrow” — and there’s just something about the hopeful way it’s sung that redeems the track for me.

The album comes to a head, though, at the final two songs. Once we get beyond the first verse of “wisdom teeth,” we quickly realize that gone are the jokes (er, “jokes”) about loneliness and sex and hell. What’s left is Miller laying bare her difficult time coping with sadness in the world as she’s grown up. In “wisdom teeth,” she sings of her younger, more innocent self: ”I don’t know / How to get her back, I don’t know / Where’d she go?”

She then laments the trials of growing up: “And now that I’m a little bit older, a whole 19 years / Everybody drowns their problems in Xanax and beer / I’m buyin’ all the presents on Christmas, but my tree is clear / And now underneath, it’s hard for me to look in the mirror.” While the beat is still just bright enough, the song has a hazier, more subdued quality than its forerunners. This song is the EP’s lead single for a reason; lyrically and instrumentally, it’s the album’s best.

It is followed up by “self crucify,” in which we are plunged into a fully dark, sparse melody as Miller sings about the urge to self-sabotage. “You can call me what you wanna / ’Cause I’ve probably called me worse / And I hit the rocky bottom / In my 14th year on Earth,” Miller sings.

But notably, there isn’t despair. She sings about “leaving what I’ve outgrown” and explicitly states, “I can sleep at night / ’Cause I remember, I remember / To not self-crucify,” or give in to her self-destructive impulses. The song speaks gravely to what the earlier songs’ witty quips speak to wryly: Life sucks right now, but there’s some twisted levity to be found in it. We’re all changed now, for better or worse, right? Maybe we can even grow.

The Bottom Line: Miller puts on a brave, happy front with “elated!” There’s searing emotion to be found beneath the pop veneer, but it won’t take away from your ability to have some fun listening.

The Peaks: “hallelujah,” “wisdom teeth”

The Valleys: “i never wanna die”

The Verdict: 8.5/10