Lauv, All 4 Nothing ★★☆☆☆
American artist Ari Leff, aka Lauv, makes mild-mannered music, the sort you might hear in a clothes shop. The 27-year-old broke through in 2017 with his hit single I Like Me Better, since earning billions of streams. He’s written for Charli XCX and Celine Dion, and supported Ed Sheeran on tour. Yet his songs remain an audible shrug.
A sprawling ode to life as a young online person, Lauv’s 2020 debut album ~ how i’m feeling ~ included tracks titled f*** i’m lonely, Lonely Eyes, and Modern Loneliness. He’s a reverse Carly Rae Jepsen (who, incidentally, releases an album called The Loneliest Time later this year). But while she uses heightened emotion to fill her music with colour, Lauv drains his songs grey.
Similar themes and styles abound on this second album. Molly In Mexico documents an MDMA trip, while Hey Ari conducts a mental health self-examination with simple indie chords. Loved-up title track All 4 Nothing interpolates the melody of The Police’s Every Breath You Take, and other songs like Stranger and Time After Time offer a tamed version of the precision-polished 1980s electropop done so ably by The Weeknd. Lauv excels at this smooth, restrained and often satisfying production, as on lead single 26 – a song let down by the tactless line, “Twenty-six and I’m rich, how the hell did it come to this?”.
Capable of other such profundities as, “I was scared it didn’t feel right, but then suddenly it felt right”, his lyrics are delivered via downbeat vocals that sap the will of the songs themselves, and tracks like Stay Together or torch ballad First Grade fail to develop. At least there’s not 21 of them, as on his first album.
But All 4 Nothing ultimately fails to expand his sound. On third track Kids Are Born Stars, which emulates Harry Styles’s catchy, amiable pop, Lauv vows, “I’ma be a really big star”. Sadly, with this album he’s unlikely to fulfil that promise. Kate French-Morris