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Grandson wrestles his demons and embraces humanity on I Love You, I'm Trying

"I Love You, I'm Trying"

Release date: 05 May 2023
Grandson - I Love You, I'm Trying cover
05 May 2023, 09:00 Written by Steven Loftin

Jordan Benjamin’s darkness has been reigning supreme.

I Love You, I’m Trying is the Grandson mastermind at his basest, most human level reckoning with said darkness. Picking at the scabs healing over the scars of the last few years – including wrestling with his own success; the release of his pandemic-falling debut album 2020's Death of an Optimist; the death of a day-one fan – his second album is wincingly candid and leaves Benjamin nowhere to hide.

Behind the microphone, he’s facing his demons nose-to-nose, and he’s allowing us all to be privy to the messy death match. It's a method of operating that has often been his calling card, particularly across his earlier a modern tragedy EP trilogy. “It’s a eulogy / For you and me” he succinctly sums up on “Eulogy” as he rattles through the foibles of the world from the societal (“Twelve shots fired on a man that’s innocent”), to the mental (“I can’t even hold conversation / We got ADHD and anxiety”), to the breathtakingly honest (“I contemplated suicide in that Days Inn”). I Love You soon ramps up from the idle picking of said scabs to straight up popping the wounds open, holding them up to the world and exhaustively but firmly saying “here is my truth”.

Throughout I Love You stems an arc from the thesis-setting opening moments to travelling through Grandson’s journey as an artist and person. The artwork lays the groundwork as such, depicting Grandson somewhat camouflaged in a forest, a seeming nod to the ideas held within – where he yearns for success and attention, but the world that busies around him, continually growing and organically changing with little control to be had adds a crippling weight so what better than fade into the background.

For the most part, I Love You, I’m Trying picks from the same field as his usual retinue of brash drums with violently encouraging guitars. Hip-hop beats lead the charge building up the momentum to deliver his testimonial. Whereas on his debut entry he penned high-octane missives against the world, this time it's more journalistic revelation that leaves no card unturned on his explanation of his own humanity and allows the noise to ebb and flow around this idea. This posits Benjamin in a place of being both distinctly vulnerable and pop-adjacent ("Half My Heart") or hidden within the cacophony ("Something To Hide", "Drones").

“Murderer” is the most scathing entry. A two-part soulful and vicious point-of-view ride through Grandson’s past couple of years from the take-off (“Sign the dotted line on the contract” and “I come home to Toronto / It’s a sold-out crowd”) to the cruel landing (“And when you’re this high up / It’s a long way down”). The darkness truly takes over in the second verse where the missives hit hard. Threatening Hot Ones’ Sean Evans, YUNGBLUD and Machine Gun Kelly for features, before swinging the cross-hairs to Blink 182’s Travis Barker who, in the last few years has featured on an endless list of songs (including Grandson standalone single "Drop Dead" also featuring Kesha), but, as Benjamin stabs “Travis / You didn’t share the song neither”. In an interview with Apple Music Grandson explained “I wanted to tell this story of a one-hit wonder who loses his mind,” a la Eminem's "Stan", and as the shells hit the floor, it does feel exaggerated. But, in a world so blasé and that treats art as disposable, when someone like Grandson, who trades in the depths of his heart and mind, motions to these sticky points it hits as startlingly frank and believable.

This “Stan” method appears once more. “Heather” is where I Love You, I’m Trying finds its complex resolution. A search for a lifeline in the messy waters of a world dominated by everything all at once, and how these tides can sweep us away, it frames Benjamin’s fans as an integral part of his journey – not in the surface-level format where fandom begets success – but truly integral. One would not exist without the other in the most beautiful – but codependent – way. Hooked around the story of a fan – the titular Heather – Grandson occupies a fine line between saviour and helpless onlooker as his career grips him in situ.

I Love You, I'm Trying doesn't pretend to be an easy listen. It packs a punch that is executed in the most brazenly honest way, warts and all. It is certainly not an album for the faint of heart. Grandson has managed to pen a project that unpicks the depths of depression and the pitfalls of success with the kind of aplomb and artistic merit that proves he’s an underrated gem in the canon of alt-music and should be regarded as such, after all, aren't we all really just trying to make sense of it all?

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