Image Courtesy of Ones to Watch
By Renee Rasmussen
If the obscure boy band LANY has made it to your stereo, it is probably due to the drama revolving around Paul Kein’s breakup with Dua Lipa at the end of 2017.
“I think that was the first time I’ve ever really been in love, and I’ve never felt anything like that in my life,” Kein said in an interview with Bazaar.
To deal with the painful breakup, Kein did what any musician would do; he wrote an album about it called Malibu Nights. This nine-track album centered on heartbreak, desire, and regrets left listeners feeling as though their own heartbreak was finally understood.
Still, Malibu Nights was not the best of LANY.
Released on October 2, LANY showed its true colors on Mama’s Boy, an album that combines themes of the L.A. bad boy and the southern gentleman. While based in L.A., the band originated in Nashville, and singer Kein is from Oklahoma. This album, constantly switching themes, seems to represent the ongoing war in Kein’s mind between who he should be and who he actually has become.
The album has a rough start, as the opening track of “you!” sounds vaguely similar to a Christian pop-hymn; however, this lack-luster beginning can easily be ignored when listeners continue to “cowboy in LA.” A love ballad if there ever was one, the new LANY finally appears in this song.
Kein uses this song to juxtapose his moral upbringing of a “cowboy” with his current life living in L.A. Easily one of the best verses in the song, Kein sings, “And you get up every day and you work hard for your pay / Happy in a pair of jeans / Oklahoma / It made a man out of me.” Kein may be a registered L.A. bad boy now, but he was raised a southern gentleman, and these personalities are constantly fighting throughout the album.
Kein goes from the man who will “skip the club” and “hold the door” in “cowboy in LA” to the boy who “Will make your daddy hate me / Every time that we’re alone” in “bad news.” While catchy and fun, “bad news” lacks the authenticity that makes “cowboy in LA” so hard to forget. It feels over rehearsed and a little predictable, similar to Kein’s bad boy personality. It seems Kein himself is aware of this, as the album switches from gut-wrenching emotional tracks to tracks reminiscent of Malibu Nights that don’t quite challenge the band’s talent.
A truly unexpected track comes in song five on the album titled “i still talk to jesus.” Easily one of the rawest, most authentic tracks, Kein writes a twisted hymn that will never be played in a church, but may reach more hearts than the traditional “Amazing Grace.” This song conceptualizes the struggle between a strong moral upbringing, and the temptations that come with being young.
The song starts with a verse any listener could relate to: “If there’s a heaven / I hope that I get in, but I probably won’t / I break all the rules / Do all the things the Bible says, ‘Don’t.’” The beauty of this track is listening as Kein struggles to reconcile himself with his own hypocrisy. As the song develops he sings, “I don’t change my ways, I don’t change my shirt / I go from the club straight to the church / It’s the same prayer, it’s the same hurt.” But while this song begins as a tragedy about a man who is unable to change, it ends hopeful as Kein sings, “You might not believe it / But I still talk to Jesus.”
This song is full of quotable lines, but it all works because it brings out something in the human condition: the struggle to do good in a world that seems to only reward the bad. Although Kein may not be the best role model of Christian values, he brings out the hope of the redeemed sinner who finally finds Jesus; a message not expected from the tortured boy band.
This Christian undertone not only brings out the southern gentleman in Kein, but also continues throughout the album. The last track, “nobody else,” has the romantic line, “And if heaven doesn’t want us, would you go with me to hell” that further develops the themes of “i still talk to jesus,” but offers another layer with the question of what lengths we would go to for love.
Although there is no track on the album titled “Mama’s Boy,” the name of the album becomes clear in the fourth track “if this is the last time.” Another gut-wrenching song, LANY sings to their parents apologizing for past mistakes and reminding them of their love. Listeners may even tear up when Kein sings, “If this is the last time / Then let’s do the things we always do / Like go to the mall and buy some shoes / I don’t wanna cry, I’m bad at goodbye / If this is the last time.”
Many critics argue that LANY is a band that writes “occasionally monotonous” songs, and although there are tracks on this album that fall into that trap, LANY is a band that writes about life. Life is sometimes mediocre, a little messy, and is full of mistakes. Sometimes, life makes us overly emotional, confused, and lost. The beauty of Lany’s new album is it represents this truth. This is an album at war with itself, just like many of us, struggling to come to terms with our own identity. Mama’s Boy articulates this in every track.