Greyson Chance’s career has been one of turbulence. A child star who was left dissatisfied with his work as he developed from a child to an adolescent with his own thoughts. His first album since his debut 2011, Chance’s portraits is his return to music after leaving the industry for college. Since his debut, Chance has developed well beyond the artist he once was as a child star, having even said that he regards portraits as his actual debut album, and this can be felt on the record. Gone is the auto tune and artificial songs about defying the world, instead replaced with a thinly veiled look into Chance’s life framed by gorgeous synth-pop.
In a recent essay discussing song writing in pop music published in the March 2019 edition of ELLE UK, Taylor Swift said “I thrive on the challenge of sprinkling personal mementos and shreds of reality into a genre of music that is universally known for being, well, universal”. From portraits, it is clear Chance thrives on that exact same challenge. Following in the footsteps of artists like Swift and other queer artists like Hayley Kiyoko, Chance allows us an intimate look into his life across the 12 tracks on portraits, perhaps an even more intimate look than Swift or Kiyoko have ever given their audience. The album sounds like a diary put to music with a number of quick anecdotal interludes just to increase the intimacy.
For the most part, portraits is an album about love, as most records tend to be, but Chance manages to do what many fail to, making the subject feel fresh once more. The album is melancholy, heartbreak, love and anger all wrapped up in a beautifully produced and performed package. Chance’s writing is among the best, emulating Swift’s ability to drop small, undeniably personal details between the most relatable of hooks. Chance must be commended for his unrestrained use of male pronouns and exploration of the more intimate parts of same sex relationships such as on album highlight ‘black on black’. Chance’s own Justin-Timberlake-Sexy-Back moment, ‘black on black’ holds no punches as it slithers and slinks through a tale of sexuality and sensuality. While songs about sex aren’t hard to come by, it has to be said that songs like ‘black on black’ are breaking new ground in mainstream queer expression and will influence young queer people to not only express themselves but express themselves with the same unashamed attitude as their non-queer peers have done for decades.
Chance’s portraits is not only commendable for its themes though, instead being a well-constructed, sonically cohesive and all around brilliant piece of work. Every thud of a drum, every touch of a piano key and every falsetto is perfectly crafted to produce the most perfect sounds possible. portraits may not be his actual debut, but it is hard to debate the fact that this Greyson Chance is not an entirely different artist to the one who broke out eight years ago, and if this is the type of music he is going to produce, then thank god for that.
Watch the music video for Greyson Chance’s ‘yours’ now below: