During an interview with New Musical Express, singer/songwriter Madison Beer explained that she came up with the title for her highly-anticipated debut album as a result of how it affected her, saying, “It kept me alive.”
Beer had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, falling in and out of dark mental states, and this album acted as a personal drive that she says gave her “a reason to live.”
That tight knit connection between her music and the depression she was battling rings through the entirety of Beer’s debut record, lacing the dark pop tracklist with a level of bare-your-soul honesty that’s hard to shake and easy to want to embrace.
The haunting, spacey vocal intro “The Beginning” really plays on setting this tone as Beer swoons into a reverbed void, as if she’s woken up in a dark pit and this is us hearing her panicked cry for help.
On the crushing “Default,” Beer admits how she continues to bring herself down each time she makes progress, her chilly voice singing, “You take, you take every last drop from me.” The disjointed nature of the track demands your attention, and knots your stomach with its hold.
The equally affecting “Stained Glass” wears its Radiohead-influence on its sleeve and tackles treating others with care not knowing how fragile they may be. The chorus pronounces, “And if you throw another stone/then I’d stay far away, far away/I just might break.”
Some of the more experimental tracks pay off in big moments. The penultimate song “Everything Happens For A Reason” is a strange country-tinged ballad that bends the vocal line “I still love you” until it's almost unrecognizable as an eerie guitar string over chirping birds.
“Follow The White Rabbit” sounds like something out of Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” a hungry, seducing sound of what I imagine would happen if The White Stripes and Billie Eilish collided in a musical car crash.
When Beer finds these passages of emotional vulnerability inside of intricately inventive production or vocally pouring out her heart over the spacious emptiness of “Effortlessly” or “Interlude,” the songs linger with a wrenching truth that invites us into her most private struggles.
However, this means that when this dynamic falls through, it is easy to identify and hurts the movement of the work as a whole. “BOYSH-T” attempts to offer a moment of bouncy fun amidst the heavier tracks, but lacks the passionate energy of the ballads, giving it a stale quality. “Sour Times” similarly falls apart in its chorus as the track fails to live up to its opening line with underwritten lyrics and stagey production.
And “Homesick” has a compelling idea as Beer reminisces on alien parents she feels have left her on earth, but ending the skit with a “Rick & Morty” soundbyte undercuts much of its emotional weight.
Beyond the few moments Beer loses sight of her introspective precision, “Life Support” is packed with special, heartbreaking journeys that use the increasingly darker sound of the current pop landscape and turns it into something entirely her own. With this therapeutic trip, Beer paves the way for a long career ahead worth listening to.