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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos

RUEL '4TH WALL' REVIEW

☆☆☆☆


Image: Michelle Grace Hunder.

After years of fan-demand for a full length body of work, ARIA-Award-winning and multi-platinum artist Ruel has delivered his debut album, 4TH WALL. Having made his launched his musical career six years ago, the musician has catapulted to worldwide fame and acclaim, establishing a devoted fanbase across the world through his distinctive vocal tone and knack for creating accessible contemporary pop music that strikes a chord thematically. 4TH WALL quite literally finds the musician breaking down the fourth wall, allowing his audience into his mind and baring his most inner and vulnerable thoughts. Two central threads run through the collection of songs; love and self-realisation. Ruel uses his debut album as a vehicle to document his rumination on love and heartbreak, whilst also presenting a coming-of-age tale that is fuelled by a self-led analysis of his past decisions.


Opening with the bright and choppy piano chords of Go On Without Me, the songs upbeat and engaging soundscape is juxtaposed by introspective and self-deprecating lyricism. He’s critiquing his own past behaviour following the demise of a relationship, and presenting the conscious thought that he feels inadequate to sustain a relationship with his former flame. Ruel’s vocals effortlessly move between his luring middle register and sweet falsetto, showcasing his ability and range from the outset. The upbeat sonic nature continues on I DON’T WANNA BE LIKE YOU. There’s a bubbling confidence to the track, with the self-assured musician finding himself carving out his own career away from the thoughts and expectations of others within the industry. At just 20-years-old, Ruel has set himself apart within the scene with his inimitable vocals and strong musical output. The musician picked up the ARIA-Award for Breakthrough Artist in 2018, has embarked on three sold-out world tours and has five platinum records to his name. It’s safe to say, he is well and truly capable of steering his own career, and the tracks hook is sure to be lingering in your mind for days to come. The songs bridge strips back the instrumentation allowing the musicians matured vocals to shine, before a drum pad relaunches into a textural soundscape with more synthesised sounds present.



SITTING IN TRAFFIC switches from the albums fast paced openers, instead offering a slow-burning moment with subtle 90’s influences built upon sparse production and strummed guitar work. Ruel’s lower register takes centre stage in the songs verses, before reaching new heights with his falsetto in the chorus. The song explores the blur of new love, and the haze that conceals any doubts and anxieties. As the song progresses, so does the relationship and a new found clarity presents itself as the musician recalls on past shared moments. Swelling violin melodies unfurl as the track builds to an emotional final chorus, with the singer pleading to his partner to not harbour feelings of hatred should their relationship crumble. Similarly, the more pulled back production continues on JAPANESE WHISKY, a piano-led cut that documents the musicians inner most thoughts within a cold relationship. The track builds towards a dynamic second half, introducing crunchy guitar melodies and booming drum work. His storytelling ability really shines through, weaving a relatable tale that captures the many facets within a relationship, set to an electric soundscape.


Capturing the uneasy transition from adolescence to adulthood and the new responsibilities that follow, GROWING UP IS _____ finds Ruel questioning his purpose. The reflective track sees the musician at the top of his game, delivering introspective lyricism with emotional and relatable undertones. His voice transcends in this song, building up to powerful moments that are punctuated by the energetic chorus. The arrangement on this cut complements the movement of the lyrics perfectly, the drums create an assertive quality throughout the track, that will have you replaying this song over and over again. This search for purpose spills into SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, with the musician feeling exasperated by the want to project the idea of success and happiness, whilst feeling lost and at times inauthentic. “Tell yourself it’s going great, on the inside it’s not working,” he sings. It’s a thought that is all too relatable in the fast-paced society of living life online and presenting a highlight reel to the world. If you’re a fan of The 1975, you’ll love this track. It fits perfectly within the space of this album, whilst also fitting into the sphere of pop culture today. Following another two up-tempo offerings, LIE brings us back down with Ruel’s lullaby like vocals flowing above delicate guitar melodies. Mesmerising harmonies swell throughout the songs chorus, with the track acting as one of the albums more emotional moments. The lyricism within LIE accompanies the melody perfectly, creating a monumental moment within the overall realm of the album. We’re then offered a reminder to take life as it comes and not force anything on LET THE GRASS GROW. The musician brings introspective and reflective thoughts, conjuring vivid imagery of natural serene scenes. Ruel's compelling and textural tones float atop a guitar-led soundscape, laced with lush harmonies and peaceful sonics. Having released the song last year, the musician partnered with Surfrider Foundation Australia, a not for profit sea-roots organisation, as one of their ambassadors.



The fast-paced nature of the albums earlier tracks picks up again with YOU AGAINST YOURSELF. The brimming pop release is built upon bright production and infectious melodies, whilst the musicians urgent falsetto vocals hit with the songs driving beat. Co-produced by esteemed producers Sammy Witte (Harry Styles, Halsey, King Princess) and M-Phazes (Khalid, Sam Fischer & Noah Cyrus), the track explores falling into self-sabotage and wanting to help someone out of a destructive phase. On SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM, he’s leaving behind a toxic relationship and feeling resolute in his regret-free decision, centering itself around a sing-a-long chorus. The songs thematic exploration is immediately juxtaposed on WISH I HAD YOU, which finds the musician longing to reunite with a former flame and coping with the struggle of moving on and the loneliness that lingers. You really hear how masterful Ruel is when it comes to the ebbs and flows of the overall album. This is a more demure moment that shows his formidable skills as an artist. There’s a country feel to this track, or rather an achievement that is somewhat reminiscent of an earlier Taylor Swift arrangement. It captures something unique within the complete sphere of the album. We take a slight sonic detour away from the albums more pop-based sensibilities with IF AND/OR WHEN, which is driven by an R&B groove. Whilst there are subtle threads of R&B woven throughout the record, it’s here where the musician really leans into the influence to create a brief palette cleanser as the record heads into its final act. You almost feel like these songs could soundtrack the story of your life, this track has a beat that again highlights Ruel's storytelling prowess, with some gripping melodic scales that elevate IF AND/OR WHEN.


Ruel's mesmerising vocals unfurl above dulcet piano melodies on the albums penultimate track, MUST BE NICE. he documents the lingering emotions of a breakup and the inability to move on whilst your former partner has a new life. The ballad shows a more intimate side to the musician, with vulnerable falsetto vocals soaring into a raw and emotional performance. If you weren’t picturing each song as a film earlier, you will be now. Closing the record with END SCENE, the musician is once again reflecting on a past relationship, this time closing the chapter for good. Linking back to GROWING UP IS _____, we hear similar strummed guitar chords that are taken further throughout the track. The vocal arrangement on this cut parallels earlier songs, but is texturally different - a quality that makes this offering distinctive and memorable.



On his debut offering, Ruel comes to the realisation that life isn’t all it appears to be. There’s a complexity to the human existence, one that is heightened during the transitionary period towards adulthood. And that, in all its essence, is what forms the conceptual basis of 4TH WALL. The realisation that we’re all flawed and just doing our best to keep afloat and stay true to ourselves. What Ruel has achieved on this album is something that transports you into moments that capture unique vignettes in time. Driven by relatable content, each listen will have you picking up on different gems and covert offerings within the composition of each track. Overall, 4TH WALL is a finely crafted capsule of stories that indicate the trajectory Australian pop music is heading. Subtly threading in nostalgic and multi-genre notes across the body of work (there’s particular tracks that hark back to The Beatles or modern luminaries The 1975) speaks to how we consume music, influenced by different genres. The record takes influences that are so relatable, and adds junctures that either hark back to, or become, annotations within the album. Ruel has delivered a multi-faceted body of work that cements his place as one of Australia’s most engaging contemporary acts.


4TH WALL is out now via Sony Music Australia and RCA!


RUEL 4TH WALL TOUR 2023


Friday 14 April 2023

Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane


Saturday 15 April 2023

Hindley Street Music Hall, Adelaide


Friday 21 April 2023

MCA, Melbourne


Saturday 22 April 2023

Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth


Friday 28 April 2023

Aware Super Theatre, Sydney



RUEL 4TH WALL POP-UP SHOPS

First 200 purchases can have their item signed by Ruel at the official signing session


Friday 3 March, 2023

Gabbaxchange, Brisbane

12pm - 8pm

Signing session from 6pm


Saturday 4 March, 2023

Microluxe, Melbourne,

10am - 6pm

Signing session from 2pm


Sunday 5 March, 2023

Peach Black Studios, Sydney

10am - 6pm

Signing session from 2pm


Monday 6 March, 2023

Cleaver Street Studios, Perth

10am - 6pm

Signing session from 2pm


Tuesday 7 March, 2023

Curated Spaces, Adelaide

12pm - 6pm

Signing session from 3pm

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