Sonder Son: An Analysis

Reviewing the first studio album by Brent Faiyaz



Brent Faiyaz, a multi-genre blending phenom, has dropped a classic in his first studio album. How many artist can you say that for? Faiyaz blends beautiful melody, harmonies, and vocals with simple (but addicting) beats and production that creates a minimalist’s dream. While singing about his origins, the artist creates an album with no skips — every song is close to a 10 and vital in creating the narrative of the album.


Sonder

First, I think it is important we look at the name sake of the album — Sonder Son. The word sonder can mean multiple things across different languages. It means “without” or “alone” in most languages outside of English. However, the most notable definition is the English definition — one of the newer words in the language:

“the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own” (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)

If you can’t quite capture the definition of this word, just imagine you’re driving down an interstate. On one side, there’s you. You know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and are familiar with your perspective. Even the people around you going the same direction have a similar goal. Now think of the other side of the interstate: hundreds of cars passing with hundreds of people inside with an infinite amount of unique stories and perspectives. Where did they come from? Where are they going? Who are they? Sonder is realizing that each of those cars houses a different, complex story just like the one you’re experiencing. You can apply this term in conjunction of themes applied throughout the album; feeling lost, not understanding his place in the world, the hopelessness of life, and his roots. However, there are multiple connections to the word for Brent Faiyaz. He was also in a group, named Sonder, that included a couple of producers and himself. They released only a couple of projects before Faiyaz declared as independent. Certainly, Sonder Son is a combination of both meanings.

Detachment

We are introduced to the humanness of Brent in the very first song. “Home” is a skit starting with raucous noise upon the arrival of his mother where she berates him about his grades. In the middle of the of the skit, is a beautiful, tear-jerking ballad meant to portray his inner thoughts. Being terrified to disappoint his mother, he explains all he needs to keep from acting out as a child. Love, a hug, something. But rather than receiving this, he decides “it’s just safer being silent these days”. It ends by a rampant dismissal by his mother. Here, begins detachment.

His detachment from connection and love is central to the theme of this album. You can see it in the track list alone: “Gang Over Luv”, “Nobody Carez”, “Stay Down”, “So Far Gone”, even “Missin’ Out”. It is essentially the mindset: “you don’t care about me so why should I care about you, or love, or anything for that matter”. This leads to changes that I will explain later on.

This album is a sort of love letter to the world, an open explanation to the universe. An explanation to who he is, and why, and what he wants in life. Faiyaz wants people to realize that (despite a slight selfishness in his delivery) the world doesn’t revolve around the beholder. Simply put, no one cares — especially about all the stuff that doesn’t matter. Life is bigger than what we actually know, as mentioned in his song “L.A.”. Los Angeles serves as a metaphor for how we experience the world and the chase for capitalistic gain.

’Cause I still can’t cut a deal I wanna a rollie, but it’s moving slowly Spent my last twenty buying drinks for homies And everybody wanna know me Just to say you own me Shit been getting phony — Brent Faiyaz, L.A.

Despite not having a lot, as a result of sacrificing for the rise to stardom, Faiyaz is thankful and still has the chance to keep going. He aspires to make himself and those around him rich. To prosper those that prospered him as a reward for not misplacing his rare ability to trust.

While having a disdain for the world, Brent still has the necessity for love. He wants someone that will stay down for him. To be and remain humble, even with the success he will have. Again, this will become important to how he develops as an artist. He needs and wants this love and affection in part because he isn’t sure how to trust anyone. He believes there is ulterior motive in every interaction as a rising star. And as a result, love and meaningful connections becomes futile.

Lost & Changes

The release of the EP Lost (2018), is indicative of a different era of Brent. From this point, most of the music he created has a toxic viewpoint/theme. Think the toxic masculinity of Future mixed with the vocals of The Weeknd. A perfect recipe for mainstream music. Sex, money, and drugs are significantly more present — as usually is the case after monumental success in the music world. Cynicism runs rampant throughout Faiyaz’s latest music. For example, his latest EP is titled Fuck the World. And a newer single is titled Dead Man Walking. What happened?

The impact of fame and fortune is always handled in different ways. Some spiral downward, while others are perennial stars. It certainly doesn’t seem Brent is going the wrong way on the Yellow Brick Road. He has garnered a huge number of physical sales and streams despite releasing only one studio album and a couple of EPs. As his popularity rises to its furthest heights, expect to see Faiyaz indulge deep into the world of love, sex, and rock and roll.

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