Teddy Swims – Unlearning

Warner Records Inc

Release Date: May 21st 2021

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Teddy Swims– Unlearning (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. L.I.F.E.
  2. Bed On Fire
  3. Blowin’ Smoke
  4. Broke (feat. Thomas Rhett)
  5. Somebody Should Kiss You
  6. Til I Change Your Mind
  7. Will It Find Me

There are times in life where it’s healthy to be safe, to take the easy option. Especially during COVID-19, we must follow the rules and the guidelines set out for us in order to be as prepared as we can to exit lockdown in one piece. But as we wait for lockdowns to end, I guess you could say that the things we do while at home… can be, are allowed to be, and in fact I’d say are encouraged to be, a bit riskier. Instead of just being on the phone for the entire time, and wasting the days that way; how about conversing more with your parents, zooming with your friends, binging a TV show or an entire day of Netflix, Disney + or whatever other streaming service your heart desires? Or you could forgo technology all together and play a board game? The long and short of it is that the possibilities are endless at home during lockdown- and things don’t have to be all doom and gloom. In terms of music artists though (because for all intents and purposes we are first and foremost a music review site!), shall we stay safe or take a risk in terms of who we listen to? Shall we stick to our preferences or find something else to latch onto, to challenge, inspire and encourage? For me I have been branching out in mainstream music since 2018- but if you take a read of our reviews since this year, you can see that we’ve been taking some pretty big risks lately- an example is reviewing both Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR and The Veronicas’ GODZILLA within the month; albums that even a year ago we’d frown at. Now… allow me to add another obscure album to the pile- pop vocalist Teddy SwimsUnlearning.

When I see people, they’ll always say, “look, I love to show people your voice, but I always like to hold the camera – ‘don’t look, just hear him sing first and then tell me what you think he looks like, all right, and then look, here he is. And they’re like, oh!’”… and they always tell me like, ‘people trip out when they see what you look like as opposed to your voice,’ it’s such a juxtaposition, I guess, is the word.

I have never in my mind understood how you could hate somebody because of the color of their skin. Anytime that I’ve ever had the opportunity to stand up and say something, I’ve always been there to do it.

It’s always something that I am probably overly conscious of because of who I am and the music I make and what I look like,” he adds. “I always want to make sure no matter what that I am in support of Black culture and Black music and Black businesses. Those things are important to me because they’re important to my upbringing and the people that I love who are close to me.

Teddy Swims is an artist that I don’t think has gone the traditional route in relation to how he has achieved stardom. Originally becoming famous after releasing a viral hit of the Bonnie Raitt cover “I Can’t Make You Love Me”; he has gone from strength to strength- but has done so almost exclusively on the internet, via Youtube and social media. As a result, there hasn’t been many singles in the traditional sense… and much of the hype has been through the digital-sphere. As such, Teddy may be one of those artists who might not have recorded anything had it not been for Youtube and social media. Had he been around in the 90’s… he might not have been a singer. And that’s not a diss to his singing ability, because Teddy has an out-of-this-world breathtaking voice. It’s just that the nature of how music is consumed these days, reminds us that artists are better placed now than they were before in the 80’s and 90’s, for any chance at stardom. And Teddy’s debut EP highlights this adaptability and gratefulness for his digital platform. This is a pop album, but Teddy’s vocals shine on almost every track.

You wouldn’t really know that Teddy’s voice is piercing to the soul in a crazy good way- his look is like a gangster or something wild like that. But God has been reminding me lately to not go off my preconceptions, and Teddy’s ironically titled EP Unlearning, teaches me to unlearn and relearn how God speaks to people. He uses anything He wants, and this project is proof of God moving. Opening melody “L.I.F.E.” is an almost 3 minute slower-paced piano led ballad, whereby Teddy details the ups and downs of life, and then surmising that life happens sometimes, and there’s no reason why there are ups and downs- there just is. And as Teddy eloquently sings out that we need to let the light empower and forgive every care… the track could sound New-Age-y is you let it, but I for one am claiming this song for Jesus, and letting His love empower us all and make us all whole and more like Him. “Bed On Fire”, a haunting and heartbreaking piano led melody, is as radio friendly a song as it gets, with Teddy fervently singing to his partner, telling her to leave him if she wants to and to not drag it out, alluding to the fact that it’s better to leave someone early in the relationship if you don’t love them, than to string them along and cause real heartbreak further down the line. As Teddy laments that it’s scary to be vulnerable with someone to the point of having complete certainty that they love you back; “Bed On Fire” speaks to the nagging doubting voice at the back of our head that will forever be there, even if our partner has demonstrated time and time again of their faithfulness.

“Blowin’ Smoke”, a compelling and earnest ballad, has Teddy fervently outlining that his partner means the most to him, and that ‘…I ain’t just blowing smoke, let’s go somewhere where we can be alone, roll one up and burn it extra slow until the morning, feeling like I had to come and let you know…’, a song that does explicitly speak about drugs and smoking, but also about spending time with your partner and cherishing them in your life; while “Broke” is a pop song featuring Thomas Rhett, and a super fun music video as well, as Teddy relays that because he now earns a truckload of cash, he will now live up his life and savour his newfound wealth and freedom, amplified by his past when he was living paycheck to paycheck. “Somebody Should Kiss You”, a piano led song of lament of a lost love, details the fact that the persona’s ex deserves someone who will treat her right and special beyond all comparison; while “Til I Change Your Mind” speaks about while privilege and the Black Lives Matter movement.

And as Teddy relays to us that there is something we can do about the problem of racism, and that’s to love on everybody; we are reminded that love without condition is what Jesus has taught us, it shows the world why we as believers are different to everyone else: This song is written to, I guess you could say, the small town mentality. The mentality that I see a lot in my hometown that I grew up in about 30 minutes east of Atlanta. We were just a small town, and people tend to think just because things aren’t happening right there. And that if you’re not paying attention and you’re so lucky and privileged not to have to worry about those things that are going on with COVID and with racism in this country, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It absolutely is happening, and it’s happening right around you and right in front of you. We hear about the Breonna Taylors and the George Floyds, but how many people are there that we’re not hearing about? How many times is this happening? I’ve always considered myself as an ally — and I believe that I’m strong on Black Lives Matter and what it means and creating equality in the world — but I never knew that it happened right next to where I was born. I never knew that that was happening right here. And how privileged was I to not know about that? It just really, really hurt me and convicted me and made me think. So this song, ‘Til I Change Your Mind’ is my message to people who are so lucky to be in a place where they’re not experiencing that and seeing that all the time, because just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The final song on Unlearning is the emotional and personal “Will It Find Me”, as Teddy wonders if he will ever find true love, and then relays that he’s an optimist.

When I first started singing, I was in metal bands and was screaming in bands. And I’ve always loved the voice so much that whether – if it was opera or screaming metal or R&B or soul or whatever it took, I needed to be able to do it with my voice, musical theater — whatever it is, whatever type of voice that you can have, I want to make sure I can do it. I am just a lover of the vocal, the instrument itself, that like anytime I hear something, that’s just, ‘whoa, I have to know.’ I have to know how to make my voice do it. I can’t rest until my voice is able to do everything that there is a voice can do.

Unlearning is Teddy Swims’ story, and as he passionately sings his heart and soul out, there’s no doubt that he will go far. Singing about a myriad and smorgasbord of issues; Teddy eloquently makes us feel at home, and sings these 7 songs like a veteran! And… what else is there to talk about when I can just say listen to Teddy’s songs and be amazed? Well done Teddy, I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you in the future!

3 songs to listen to: Bed On Fire, Broke, Will It Find Me

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Lewis Capaldi, Chris Stapleton, Post Malone, Bruno Mars, Kane Brown

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