Photo Credit: Adam Scarborough
George Ezra’s music, especially as of late, feels as though it was specifically calibrated for summertime. 2018’s “Shotgun” was inescapable in Britain for not just one but two summers – if you had the radio on for an extended period of time during the summers of 2018 and 2019, you almost certainly heard it. Even if you didn’t, it inevitably still reached you somehow – whether through an H&M speaker system or from a garden party a few doors down.
Everything about Ezra’s third studio album seems designed to churn out another summer hit. Released in early June, as the days approach their longest and unsuspecting Brits get hideously sun-burned when the sun begins to rear its head, Gold Rush Kid is aggressively summery. Song titles include “Green Green Grass” and on the album cover, Ezra stands with his back to the camera, facing grassy mountains and a clear blue sky.
Ezra’s attempts at creating another ‘summer bop’ may work – “Green Green Grass” is quickly approaching the UK Top 5 and if my bi-weekly trips around my local supermarket are any indication, lead single “Anyone For You” is enjoying similar momentum. But while there was a certain effortless charm to hits like “Shotgun” or “Budapest”, the songs of Gold Rush Kid sound like the work of someone who’s given up trying any harder than is absolutely necessary.
“Anyone For You” sounds like a shameless rehash of “Shotgun.” That it’s had any real commercial success at all in the UK is proof of the current dearth of new, high-quality, mainstream music – as well as the notoriously low barriers of entry for making it onto British radio. Despite following the “Shotgun” formula so rigidly, its results are so much less rewarding; lacking a memorable hook and perpetually promising to burst in a way it never actually does.
Ezra’s other attempts to strike gold, however, fare even worse. “Fell In Love At The End of The World” attempts to be seductive, but is ultimately reliant on cliché and clumsily switches between first and second-person vantage points. “Dance All Over Me”, meanwhile, sees Ezra gesture toward dance-pop, but is ultimately limp and half-hearted. You can imagine it playing in the club as the venue slowly empties in the waning hours of the night as drunken highs wear off and the prospect of having to wake up the next morning slowly dawns. Although perhaps, the worst offense is committed on “In The Morning”, where Ezra rhymes “morning” with “morning” three consecutive times.
In a 2020 interview, Ezra admirably opened up about his struggles with OCD, and this is hinted at on his third album. This is too often done, however, in terms so broad the music becomes impersonal. The title track is a motivational poster masquerading as a song, substituting lines like “You’re not alone // Although you feel alone” for any real meaningful self-examination. “Don’t Give Up” gets closer to achieving said self-examination, as Ezra sings of restless nights, over-working, and unsuccessfully looking for love at the bar, but as soon as he begins mining his troubles, he finds a solution with suspicious ease: “But I believe we can make it tonight // Don’t give up.” Restrained by the pop rulebook, Ezra refuses to confront any problem that can’t be neatly resolved within the course of three-and-a-half minutes. This is why Gold Rush Kid is an album far less likable and far less interesting than the man who created it himself.