Review: Gus Dapperton — Orca

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Tuesday, September 29th, 2020 at 3:42 PM
Review: Gus Dapperton — Orca by Teddy Rankin

Gus Dapperton has been making ‘80s inspired dream pop since 2016, but it wasn’t until this past summer that he burst into the mainstream. Dapperton’s featured verse on BENEE’s candidate for song of the summer, “Supalonely,” propelled him to chart success and a huge new fanbase on TikTok 

The 23-year-old artist is not your typical pop star. Dapperton has a unique voice that drips with authenticity; adding a depth that sets him apart from the rest of the alt-pop artists currently cashing in on TikTok. He also studied music technology after high school; this allows him to compose the complex and vibey arrangements for which he is known. With a fashion sense admittedly influenced by David Bowie, Dapperton is setting himself up to be the next in a long line of eccentric artists to progress the artform. 

Following his first taste of major fame, Dapperton set out to take the next step toward becoming a household name on his new album, “Orca.” The 10-track record, released on Sept. 18, is his second full length effort.  

In “First Aid,” Dapperton sings about depression and self-harm. Any song discussing such a heavy topic requires lyrical precision to handle it appropriately. He carries the responsibility aptly and credits his sister’s support for his recovery, crooning, “She’s got heart the size of I-95.” 

Fans of internal rhyming will enjoy “Post Humorous,” a track that satisfyingly includes the phrase, “I repress the iridescence of a fire.” Dapperton pushes his vocals to their limit here, resulting in a nasally scream. Arguably the catchiest cut on the album, this song is a plea to an ex romantic partner to make Dapperton laugh just one last time. 

Dapperton features Australian artist Chela on “My Say So,” a chanty anthem about staying true to yourself. This track has the highest potential for radio play, but it lacks the heavy backbeat that permeates the top 40. Although the artist’s commitment to dreamy alternative soundscapes is respectable, this song could benefit from some peer pressure — borrowing some trends from current radio hits. 

Although “Orca” does a nice job of highlighting his strengths, Dapperton fails to meet mainstream audiences where they are. It’s unclear if he is ahead of, or lagging behind, his time. While retro-futurism has worked well for other artists, Dapperton hasn’t found the sweet spot yet. He doesn’t lean far enough in any specific direction, leaving “Orca” to sound like a safe play for the still-blossoming artist.  

I like Gus Dapperton and I want him to be successful. I even like this album and think it’s very well made, but he is going to have to take some risks if he wants to win a Grammy.  

Teddy Rankin is a music writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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