Remember Greyson Chance? The teenager who shot to fame with his cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi?” Released an album with the minor hit “Unfriend You” (featuring a Nickelodeon-era Ariana Grande in the video)? If you don’t, that’s alright; a lot has changed since his 2011 debut. After dropping singles and EPs, quitting music altogether to pursue an education, and coming out to the world, Chance has returned triumphant with his sophomore effort, portraits, his first record that allows him to present the breadth of his artistry. A rumination on a former relationship and newfound adulthood, the album features mature and personal lyrics to emphasize just how much change the singer has underwent in his time away from the spotlight.
The music isn’t the only thing that’s changed; Chance’s voice — at one time a strong prepubescent tenor — has morphed into a gruff baritone, most easily distinguished on spoken-word interlude “plains.” He often utilizes his considerably expanded range, from its gravely pits (“bleed you still,” “stand”) to its pillow-y highs (“timekeeper,” “lakeshore”). Mixing his powerful vocals with the album’s mostly on-trend atmospheric soundscapes, the singer produces some magnificent results worthy of being collected under its title.
An optimistic ode to budding romance, “shut up,” opens the record, allowing Chance to reintroduce himself to the listener gently as opposed to the aggressive route child stars often take. The singer journeys through the twelve tracks with a palpable thoughtfulness — even when delving into more risque territory on songs like “black on black” — one that could be attributed to his ability to speak frankly of his sexuality. Although it may seem trivial to some, his use of male pronouns is a significant; not only is it his first body of work he does so on, but it also offers a visibility for queer people not always guaranteed in the media. Refreshing to say the least, portraits paints Chance as an assured young man that has come into his own beyond the microscope most public figures are constantly under, and that’s all we could really ask of him.
Standout tracks: “shut up,” “yours,” “black on black,” “timekeeper”