Alexander 23 is making all of our California dreams are come true. Hazy instrumentals and airy vocals create the ultimate soft-pop masterpiece with Oh No, Not Again!, the singer’s sophomore EP following 2019’s I’m Sorry I Love You. The acoustic-powered project channels our budding 2000s nostalgia with a simplicity akin to early John Mayer and lyricism as poignant as a Jason Mraz hit. Beachy undertones drive listeners through the five stages of grief, heartbreak style, as Alexander 23 tales his feelings of love and loss with sheer vulnerability and sincerity.
If the name Alexander 23 sounds familiar, there’s a reason. The rising star has previously toured alongside artists like Alec Benjamin, Chelsea Cutler, and Omar Apollo. Perhaps he’s even crossed your TikTok For You Page – his track “IDK You Yet” continues to be a viral success with nearly 200,000 audio uses to date. Now, only a week after the world’s day of love, enter Oh No, Not Again! as the greatest antithesis to romance and affection.
Far too often does listening to breakup songs feel like we’re on the outside looking in — as if a microscope is pointed toward an artist’s world. Alexander 23 challenges the norm of stereotypical “sad song” music composition and breaks the fourth wall by putting us into his environment of heartache and anguish. 23’s lyrics are so poetically perfect it’s as though he’s shattering our own hearts in the name of art. As harrowing as it seems, it’s tragically beautiful all the same. His lyrical gifts are a rarity; taking a listen to Oh No, Not Again! may be the best handout 2021 has to offer (despite the inevitable tear or two expected to be shed).
The nine-song collective is among the most sonically consistent bodies of work pop music could wish to see this year. In a radio era full of EDM infusions and experimental sounds, it’s utterly refreshing to hear a laid-back, acoustic project with no skips on the table. While each song manages to tell a different story of love, the overarching narrative of Oh No, Not Again! is steadily tied from the first track to last. As if that’s not enough, there’s some seriously creative wordplay that would be an injustice to miss.
EP standout “Caught in the Middle,” pays homage to the dreaded “what ifs” and awkward silences of a relationship at its wit’s end. Like a track out of an indie coming-of-age movie, it details growth between lovers turned strangers as former flames navigate their newly independent lives. 23 lingers upon the age-old question, “ain’t it funny how we used to say, ‘I love you’ now we don’t say nothing at all?”
But maybe there is a light at the end of the heartbreak tunnel. Oh No, Not Again! is a magical mess of meditative vibes; it allows its listeners to release those pent-up frustrations and woes that linger from our breakups. The project has an anthemic quality creating space for screams and dances when we need moments to simply cry it out. Track four, “Nothing’s the Same” (feat. Jeremy Zucker), adds a booming percussive line to its bridge that provides a much-needed roar within an otherwise mellow EP. Above all else, Alexander 23 is a clear master of lyricism. “She Loves Me” cleverly reminds us of our first feelings of longing and desire. Anyone else tear back flower petals on the playground chanting “they love me, they love me not” in secret?
The true star of the show: “Track 9.” In a letter to a lost lover, its words are simple, imperfect, and yearning. The symbolic final song illustrates how difficult it can be to accept closure, how hard it let go when there’s a wish to relive the past. Even so, after the heartache endured throughout the EP, “Track 9” still closes in a way that hardly feels like a goodbye, but a new beginning – and we can’t wait to hear what’s next.