During the summer months, it seems most new album releases have a tendency to focus on upbeat and danceable tunes. While these offerings are certainly a welcome addition to the music calendar. Recently, something else caught my attention. I’ve been particularly drawn to the singer-songwriter Billy Cullum lately and his latest album, “Whatever Happened Next.” Particuarly so because of finding the lead-in focus tracks “Twisted” and “Gold” perfectly showcase his genuine and thoughtful narratives. I instantly became hooked on Billy’s courageous expressions as he dives into profound topics, such as relationships, sexuality, mental health and identity as an openly queer artist.
The songs in his sophomore collection are genuinely impressive. They capture the essence of growing up and seamlessly explore one’s identity. The vocals are raw and emotional, conveying the complex feelings around relationships and embracing queerness. Furthermore, each song tells a unique story contributing to the album’s powerful and cohesive account of Billy’s experiences. This album is a rare gem that is both intense and personal and yet, universally relatable to anyone who listens to it.
It opens with the beautiful folk-pop song “Gold,” which has a poignant and inspiring message. The rest of the album features a somewhat diverse selection of alternative tracks, that one by one push the boundaries of folk-pop in some really interesting ways. What I love most about it though, is Billy’s incredible emotive voice. He manages to keep such a tight grasp on an introspective, vocal-lead style of alt-pop that is all his own and really sets this album apart.
I have to admit. I fell under the “Whatever Happened Next” spell the moment I began listening through it. Since it’s pretty much impossible to get these songs out of your head once they’ve made their way in. There’s just something about the soft and tender production, coupled with the heartfelt feelings these songs exude, that makes them so captivating. After years of holding back, Billy Cullum has undoubtedly found his place in pop.