Monday, June 20, 2022

George Ezra’s classic sunny pop goes deeper on ‘Gold Rush Kid’

When Brit musician George Ezra’s second album, ‘Staying at Tamara’s’, became an almost instant success off the back of the hit single ‘Shotgun’, he almost immediately gained a reputation as the happiest man in pop. 

Released in 2018, ‘Staying at Tamara’s’ was indeed bursting at the seams with sunny optimism. Even its few voyages into more introspective waters soon gave way to joyful, stadium-rousing choruses. Just take ‘Pretty Shining People’, which quickly slides from the brooding, “Why, why, what a terrible time to be alive / If you’re prone to overthinking” into the jubilant, “Hey pretty shining people, we’re alright together”.

Although this brand of good cheer is arguably in demand in the uncertain times we continue to live in, Ezra’s new album, ‘Gold Rush Kid’, is his most inward-looking yet, and shows the singer beginning to explore issues of mental health and vulnerability. As a result, it sometimes feels like this album darts between satisfying the public expectation of the singer as a likeable, happy-go-lucky guy, and engaging more with the depth and complexity behind this persona. Ezra revealed in 2020 that he suffers with OCD and anxiety, and that these issues had been exacerbated by his sharp rise to household-name status. A few tracks on ‘Gold Rush Kid’ explicitly hint at these difficulties, though not without Ezra’s signature sanguine overtones.


The first few songs on the track list, early singles ‘Anyone For You (Tiger Lily)’ and ‘Green Green Grass’, are dance-y, effervescent, and radio-friendly. They don’t tread new ground for the singer, but are unoffensive offerings, very much in the vein of earlier tracks like ‘Shotgun’ and ‘Paradise’. The album’s titular song is similarly catchy, with Ezra wryly reflecting on his success over the past few years – “I’m the gold rush kid, robbing the bank / Making a run for it and learning to dance”. Its lyrics hint at some discontentment, but like in ‘Pretty Shining People’, these feelings are assimilated into something universal: “you’re not alone, although you feel alone / you’re just like everyone, you’re holding on”.


‘Fell In Love At The End of The World’ delivers more emotional heft as Ezra muses about being “scared of living life below the surface” and “tryna keep (his) cool while the walls fall in”. And ‘Don’t Give Up’ similarly blends low-key instrumentals with personal lyrics and what might be the least cheery chorus of Ezra’s discography thus far: “Sometimes living scares me but I’m holding on / I don’t sleep too good and I work too hard”. Don’t fret, though, he hasn’t gone too melancholic on us – at the track’s core is a choir-backed refrain urging the listener, “Don’t give up”.

‘I Went Hunting’ was the final single released ahead of the album and showcased a versatility of sound, with its soulful leaning. It’s a dialled-down insight into Ezra’s struggles with OCD, most affectingly expressed in the stuck-record feel of the line, “Imagine havin’ a thought and then thinkin’ it again / Thinkin’ it again, thinkin’ it again”.

Continuing the trend of more instrumentally subdued tracks, ‘Sweetest Human Being Alive’ looks toward a future relationship and is in the vein of Michael Bublé’s ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’. The effect is one of sweetness that veers into saccharine at points, especially in the dramatic piano and strings backing. Meanwhile, ‘Gold Rush Kid’s final track, ‘The Sun Went Down’, is a lovely, gentle album closer, with a folk-like refrain that builds in momentum until the final verse, where Ezra bittersweetly sings, “Well, I could die now / I’m so happy I could die now”.


Overall, it’s a pleasing third offering from someone of Ezra’s beloved national status. In a recent interview with The Times, he expressed frustration with the pressure of his non-complex, ‘nice guy’ image. And here, there are promising glimpses of the more contradictory, messy self beneath it. Still, you can’t help wishing he would lean into bucking these expectations just a little more.


George Ezra is heading out on tour around the UK and Europe later this month. You can grab tickets to one of his shows now, and in the meantime, let ‘Gold Rush Kid’ be your soundtrack as you enjoy all this good weather!

Eleanor Burleigh


Image: ‘Gold Rush Kid’ Official Album Cover

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