Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Ruel – Painkiller

Emerging singer-songwriter has some of us reaching for the ibuprofen…


Alfred Soto: This Australian’s teen’s stresses aren’t so much influenced by hip-hop as by hip hop-influenced pop like Taylor Swift and Lorde’s. The strings introduce a welcome dissonance. Metaphor for his beloved homeland notwithstanding, “Painkiller” still comes off like the average guy’s valentine to girl-as-Advil. 

Crystal Leww: Ruel was purportedly discovered by frequent KYLE collaborator M-Phazes, who also produced “Painkiller.” Alas, Ruel lacks the charm of KYLE, who would have managed to take the blueprint laid out by songwriter Sarah Aarons and turned it into something fun. This is plodding and dripping, largely because Ruel can’t manage to rise above the groove of the production and put his own mark on it. 

Scott Mildenhall: Having been earmarked as a prodigy for about a quarter of his life, Ruel has probably heard enough of people calling him impressive, but that’s what this is. “Painkiller” is slick and tightly controlled, as is his performance. Above all, it’s strong enough melodically to withstand its attempts to foreground stylishness, in turn backgrounding the bamboozling fact that he was born after curtains were cool.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: This is so obviously an off-brand Khalid song by a guy who can’t sing or write as well as Khalid himself that I can’t help but admire the move. Of all the big pop stars of the day, Khalid is perhaps the most easily imitated — yearning lyrics, smooth production, vocal performances that imply that you have endless reserves of feeling that really aren’t there. It’s no surprise, then, that I like this better than most Khalid songs — the imperfections in the facsimile are the appeal.

Iris Xie: Are you sure we aren’t reviewing The xx, as interpreted by Ed Sheeran? 

Nicholas Donohoue: If ever there were a song to make me appreciate Shawn Mendes’s specific contribution to pop music, this is it. Ruel is audio-wise hitting on a similar timbre and quality as Mendes, but his self-destructive cynicism in what is supposedly a love song slants me into discomfort, which is then bogged down further by the track running like a stalled car on a gravel road. No amount of strings can impart lush romance into a track that is inevitable falling to its own numbness.

Katherine St Asaph: The soul-music stabs and occasional instrumental frippery are the opposite of narcotic — and given the Year of Rest and Relaxation benzo haze that’s overcome music for the past few years, that’s a good thing.

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2 Responses to “Ruel – Painkiller”

  1. We listed seven different artist comparisons with no duplicates between reviews which is mildly impressive.

  2. omg iris