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  • Andy Mockbee

Review: "SYNTHETIC" - Nicky Buell

"If I'm being honest I hate my whole body," is the blunt admission opening the latest single from Seattle-based pop artist, "Nicky Buell." This is not where the directness ends, however. What follows is an agitated vent lambasting societal culture of body shaming and appearance obsession set to a layered and polished production. Articulating the sound of "SYNTHETIC" is challenging: it has the dramatics of Queen if they were filtered through a smoother and more acoustic instrumental. The songwriting is hot-tempered: constantly shifting and jolting in energy, making for a dizzying listen. The smoother instrumental—groovy bass, sturdy brass, and dense percussion—smartly cools "SYNTHETIC" off enough to make for a danceable and cathartic listen that remains focused.

The intelligence of Buell's lyrics comes with how he expresses the totality of body dysmorphia. Layering personal feelings with broader experiences, "SYNTHETIC" is as confessional as it is relatable. "Try every diet to keep our conscience quiet / we starve ourselves in private just to feed the desirability." The word choice is precise and impactful, expressing the severity of the issue without losing his trademark directness. The swirling whirlpool of symptoms and causes create an exhaustion that Buell targets at the song's center. "And honestly I'm over it: this superficial poser shit." When fatigue is this bone-deep, catharsis can feel as impossible as a solution.

Nicky Buell is a Seattle-based pop artist establishing himself as a rising star in the queer pop scene. He publically came out at the age of 20 with the song, "Thirsty." Since, he has collaborated with many acclaimed musicians and producers leading up to the release of his debut EP in 2021, "Spongy Emerald Prince." "SYNTHETIC" is the fourth single of 2022 from Buell. His strength as a pop artist is in how he wields influential sounds and styles—bending them to add punch.

Written By Andy Mockbee

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