Finding your ‘Placement’

Watsky’s new album makes listeners feel less alone

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Mike Squires

On March 6, alternative rap artist Watsky released a new album, “Placement.” The album is shorter compared to Watsky’s previous records, but the topics discussed in the lyrics hold true to the rapper’s legacy. Each song on the album has a different sound, whether it be an upbeat song about his childhood, a misleading song about politics, or a slow song about mental illness.

One of my favorite things about the alternative music scene is how diverse it is. Alternative is a word with several connotations, especially when used to describe a music genre. A genre can be alternative rock, alternative pop, even alternative rap — all the alternative label means is that the music being produced is not mainstream.

[H]e sings about the truth without fear of the backlash of society.”

— Staff Writer Rachel Laposka

I would describe my music taste as primarily alternative. Sure, there are definitely more distinct genres when it comes to music, not everything can fall into the alternative category, and not everything that falls into the alternative category is good.

There are some more ambitious artists that label themselves as “alternative so-and-so,” but very rarely are they successful with their claims. I have found that most alternative rap artists fall victim to that — their music sounding repetitive with overdone beats and bland lyrics.

The one exception I have found thus far is George Watsky, who simply goes by the stage name Watsky. Watsky is one of those artists that I admire due to the fact that he sings about the truth without fear of the backlash of society. It is admirable, and with a hit or miss genre like alternative rap, it makes what he is doing all the more impressive. 

As of March 6, Watsky released his sixth studio album titled “Placement.” Upon my first listen, I was immediately drawn into the album. Watsky uses different musical elements and vocalization methods to build stories within his songs, which is a hard thing to do well.

Most artists that try to tell stories with their songs do one of two things: they either oversell it to the point of it being unbearable, or they under-describe their stories and the whole song ends up being bland. There is a very fine middle ground that is hard to achieve, but Watsky does just that with “Placement.”

Something Watsky does in almost all of his songs that is extremely prevalent on his most recent album is reminiscing on his childhood. Several songs on the album include discussion about his family and his beliefs from childhood that carried over. Other than his early life, Watsky also dwells into deeper topics with his music.

Lyrics are definitely my favorite part of any Watsky song. Each song has such a different vibe, the lyrics either being about the positives in life, his childhood, or something darker, typically related to mental illness. 

My top three tracks on “Placement” are “Border in My Heart,” “Embrace the Quake,” and “Black Hole Eyes.

“Border in My Heart” was my favorite song as soon as I heard it. The song starts with Watsky’s soft  voice over a simple piano melody. The lyrics then go down a more political road as the song progresses, which is probably the reason why I enjoy it so much.

I am no stranger to political songs, most of my favorite songs have some form of a political message in them, whether it be with literal politics, social issues, or other nationwide and international issues. 

The lyrics then go down a more political road as the song progresses, which is probably the reason why I enjoy it so much.”

— Staff Writer Rachel Laposka

Music carries a message that is so influential because it forces people to listen, and because so many people listen to music on a day-to-day basis, the message spreads quickly. Watsky is known for calling out various unfair societal norms in his music, with topics regarding gender roles, sexuality, and more recently, politics.

“Border in My Heart,” to simply put it, is a song about President Donald Trump. It is not a kind song about him, that’s for sure. The lyrics are about Watsky’s respect toward the President or lack thereof. 

Lyrics are definitely open for interpretation, but in this case, it is clear what Watsky is trying to say about Donald Trump. Specifically, with the line “If that was too vague, Donald J. Trump is a thug and a plague.” Alongside the blatant callout, Watsky more subtly alludes to the current political issues as “the forces of good and evil,” which he continuously refers to throughout the chorus of the song. 

A close second favorite of mine from “Placement” is “Embrace the Quake.” The song is just all-around deep and inflicts a specific emotion in its listeners. Watsky’s soft singing paired with a calming beat blend together to create a beautiful song about life as a whole. 

Embracing the quake of life is something that people need to practice more, rather than just ignoring their issues in hopes of them disappearing.”

— Staff Writer Rachel Laposka

“Embrace the Quake” is a song about going with the flow of life, no matter what it tries to throw at you. Life is referred to as “the quake” due to how life sometimes can be as overwhelming and powerful as an earthquake. 

Lyrically, this is the most powerful song on “Placement.” Watsky sings about fighting through anxiety and living his best life, despite how chaotic everything around him may be. The song asks a question to its listeners, a question I am sure people have thought of but never genuinely considered — “If you could know when you would die, give you the date and time, would you agree?”

While it is a deep question, it perfectly matches the vibe of the song. Embracing the quake of life is something that people need to practice more, rather than just ignoring their issues in hopes of them disappearing. 

“Embrace the Quake” ends with the sound of what can only be described as an earthquake shaking a house, shattering glasses everywhere. It is unquestionably a creative way to end the song, the noise getting progressively more aggressive until it mellows out into a calming piano melody.

“Black Hole Eyes” was a difficult song for me to get through at first. Not only are the lyrics dealing with a heavier topic, but there is an unidentified noise at the beginning of the song that made me cringe. 

The best way I can describe the noise is windshield wipers on a dry windshield. It’s a sort of high-pitched back and forth scraping noise that drove me away from the song at first. Eventually, I sucked it up and moved past the obnoxious noise to listen to the rest of the song, and I am glad I did.

He is able to make his audience feel like they are truly not alone in this world with their dark thoughts by making them sound like his own.”

— Staff Writer Rachel Laposka

“Black Hole Eyes” is hauntingly enchanting with vocalization and soft harmonies throughout. Watsky’s voice is so light and airy, it distracted me entirely from the ear-splitting noise at the beginning of the song. 

The lyrics of this song are dark, presumably about the effects of depression on someone’s mind. Watsky sings about not necessarily death, but pure oblivion and being frozen in time like a bug frozen in amber. 

In the chorus of the song, Watsky claims for someone to have “black hole eyes,” meaning that every time he looks into them, he can feel himself being sucked into the eternal darkness of the void in space. 

I do not always say this about artists and genuinely mean it, but Watsky is a lyrical mastermind. He can write songs and poetry about the most absurd things and make them sound like it is a part of everyone’s day-to-day lives. He can also take a topic that is dark and twisted and turn it around to be an upbeat song about making the most out of life. 

Watsky’s music is inspiring to the vast majority of people. He is able to make his audience feel like they are truly not alone in this world with their dark thoughts by making them sound like his own, which is truly a praiseworthy thing to do.