By Nimra Amir, October 2 2023—
Former white boy of the month, Ross Lynch, has recently resurfaced on X with posts that question if he does actually make music because every viral thirst trap seems to have him conveniently just posing in front of a microphone. For those who have watched Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally, Lynch played musician Austin Moon and recorded all of the show’s first soundtrack as well as some of the show’s second soundtrack. Similarly, for those who have watched Disney Channel’s Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach 2, Lynch played surfer Brady and recorded some of the movie’s soundtrack. There is no doubt that Lynch has made music earlier in his career. But what about now?
Lynch’s most recent musical endeavour after his Disney Channel soundtracks and the pop-rock band R5 is the indie-pop duo The Driver Era with his brother Rocky. As a former fan of Lynch, I listened to all of the albums released by the duo to see for myself exactly what type of music he makes now.
The duo’s debut studio album X begins with the moody song “Welcome to the End of Your Life”, which signals a clear departure from the Lynch that many of us have grown up with by immediately singing about the existential dread that comes with realizing the impending death that awaits us all with lyrics like “Wish you would’ve never thought twice, yeah / Never got to save a girl’s life, yeah / Probably should’ve learned to play nicer.” But the mood immediately picks up with notable songs like “Nobody Knows,” “Feel You Now” and “Afterglow” about love with a more upbeat pop sound — but in a way so that every song can still hold its own. The album ends with the popular song “Preacher Man” which was initially released as a single about regret with lyrics written in a confessional style like “Hey, Mr. Preacher Man / Can you help me get away from this life of sin? / I’m ashamed of the dark places I done been / Fix my soul so I don’t lose a love again.”
X does successfully what is attempted by many albums — bridge together different genres like pop, rock and indie in a way that is cohesive through songs that relate to each other in terms of being about the general experience of a young person figuring out life, but still hit on the different ways that experience looks. It is not just about finding love and losing love, but also about regret of the past or the present and fear of the future. There are no two songs on the album that are the same in any way, but that is what makes the album fun.
Their album Girlfriend begins with the song “Heart of Mine” which appropriately sets the tone for the rest of the tracklist by introducing love. This tone is followed up in songs like “cray z bab e” and “Leave Me Feeling Confident” which develop how love will change how you feel — like making you crazy or confident. The narrative continues in the groovy song “When You Need a Man” with simpler lyrics to vibe out to. But the mood picks up with the popular song “A Kiss” with catchier lyrics to jam out to, like “It’s just a curve upon the lips, the hips / Just the satisfaction of the twist, the twist / Nothing the matter with a kiss, a kiss.”
Unlike X, Girlfriend has a clear category with the album focusing on the experience of love. This does mean that some of the songs tend to blend together, but for those who are interested in this specific niche of indie-pop love songs then that may be perfect. For me, it was less than favourable but I was still able to enjoy the catchier songs like “A Kiss.”
The duo’s recent album Summer Mixtape begins with the song “Malibu” — a city that is described to perfectly encapsulate the relaxed but fun summer that is emulated throughout the rest of the tracklist with lyrics like “All I see is stars / Far from the panic don’t know how I live without / Live without / Malibu.” But of course, there is trouble in paradise with more slow-paced songs like “Fantasy” and “The Money” about wanting someone you love and wanting that someone you love to want you back. The album ends with the song “Keep Moving Forward” featuring singer Nikka Costa singing about exactly what the title describes, moving forward, but with a more upbeat electric sound.
Summer Mixtape, like Girlfriend, plays into the indie-pop love songs. It was at this point in my listening experience that I began to crave the moodier songs like “Welcome to the End of Your Life” instead of the more generic pop songs like “Malibu.” This is not to say that “Malibu” or songs like it, such as “Fantasy” and “The Money” are bad songs, but the album leaves something to be desired in terms of the previous sound that the duo had put out.
I can say that Lynch, despite his former title of white boy of the month, is more than just a viral thirst trap on X posing in front of a microphone. Instead, he does actually make music. In fact, the music is generally good too — especially earlier music like on debut album X.