Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Sub Urban – Cradles

When the wind blows, the “Cradles” won’t rock…


Kylo Nocom: “Cradles” started off its journey on NoCopyrightSounds a year ago. You can kind of see how this would’ve appealed to the type of teenagers that stream games: a pretty clear EDM-drop structure, kinda gimmicky, more violently creepy than the cartoonishness of more realized Gen-Z stars to where it might not even register as pop music. Of course, being free to use, it inadvertently became a TikTok sound and now we’ve got someone whose budding alt-pop stardom appears to be a mistake. Thankfully, “Cradles” is great enough that I don’t mind more from this guy. If Billie Eilish’s taste in horror was Blumhouse, then Sub Urban’s is more Burton: style over substance, but a cool enough aesthetic that I don’t care if the content’s a bit lacking. Though it was aggravating to hear so much emphasis on When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? as a producer-project, a love letter to FINNEAS’s sound design is inherently more intriguing than the failed attempts at capturing Billie’s particular teen-sad.

Alfred Soto: I’m not sure why he whispers the pretty Beatle-esque melody beneath the mild industrial gewgaws. Is the alternative more offensive?

Michael Hong: Dreary vocals that sound almost bored over toyish instrumentals, sort of like if Troye Sivan developed Melanie Martinez’s aesthetic. Not quite as repulsive as Martinez’s work, but the overall feel is more offputting than horror.

David Moore: Ah, that special guitar fuzz that evokes a cheap-looking video with a creepy dollhouse in it…and right on cue they steer into celesta in the (non-)chorus and take it all the way over the top.

Oliver Maier: The instrumental hook is a little more abrasive than it needed to be, bordering on Kai Whiston territory, and that’s a plus, but the overall aesthetic has been cliché for years now. If I understand the TikTok market correctly this is the kind of song that e-boys glower at their cameras to? I think ideally music for sad teens should aim for catharsis if it can’t be more imaginative in its wallowing. 

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: From an aesthetic point of view, Sub Urban’s disaffected, creepy persona is a spot-on Billie Eillish impression. But if I love Eillish so much, why do I viscerally dislike this so much? Let’s start with the artist himself: whereas Eillish makes music feel like a meditation on feeling alone in this turbulent world, Sub Urban comes across as an egotistic 19-year-old troll whose self-deprecation is toxic. In his Genius interview for “Cradles” he has the noxiousness to say things such as “I wrote this two years ago when I was a dissociating little bitch teenager and not much has changed” and the smugness to say things such as “I was born into a fortunate life. I’ve gained even more fortune since I started doing music. I got full pockets and now I got too much luck.” His arrogance extends even further: about other music, he says “Every fucking sound, just, it sounded the same, even the diverse shit… the current shit that’s out right now, y’all production fucking sucks. I’m so sick of emo hip-hop because it’s so poorly blended.” As if his music sounds original! All it takes is one listen to “Cradles a friend” or “Cradles Guy” to see how much of a knockoff this is! Sub Urban himself sounds like Panic at the Disco! or Twenty One Pilots except neutered. Add in my discovery of a Reddit post titled “Sub Urban is Billie Eillish for Boys,” and I just wish that this song would take its aesthetic more seriously and actually burst into flames.

Scott Mildenhall: That the lyrics sound so much like self-parody probably indicates an admirable commitment to the cause — it would certainly be disappointing to learn they were born more of calculation than heart. It’s somewhat enjoyable to hear even without sharing in that investment, particularly with the slowed-down “Golden Brown” riff, but for all that “Cradles” projects idiosyncrasy, it suggests superior influences twice as hard.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: An incredible drop wrapped in replacement-level songcraft. The part that works suceeds for exactly the reason the rest fails — the distorted music box trick, which only gets more chopped up as the song goes on, is a truly unexpected sonic tool. The rest, from the dead-eyed delivery to the mall goth poetry laureate lyrics, is exactly what you would expect from a song called “Cradles” by an artist called Sub Urban.

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One Response to “Sub Urban – Cradles”

  1. fwiw this precedes both “bury a friend” and “bad guy” and most of billie’s debut era

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