yung lean

Live Review: Yung Lean @ The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver – December 19th 2014

In 2014 there aren’t many things I’m certain about. If there is some certainty in my life, it’s that I feel relevant after having attended the Yung Lean concert at the Vogue. Here’s why:

2014 is the year of post-irony – when liking things ironically ceases to be ironic. By so frequently taking pleasure in the bad, we’ve lost the ability to distinguish the “bad” from the “good”. 18-year-old Swedish rap artist Yung Lean’s success has afforded him a “Sad Boy” empire, and he’s taking cues from artists like Lil B, who revel in infamy, preposterousness, and Internet glory. These days it feels like the aforementioned list items are inextricably linked.

Some folks learn early on in life that “it’s not what you say, but how you say it”. It’s a saying that just might be Yung Lean’s philosophy. His videos afford him millions of YouTube hits, Tumblr reblogs, and a cult-like following. Yung Lean’s gaudy aesthetics overshadow his mediocre rapping. He stars in absurd music videos, where he’s dressed in windbreakers and bucket hats, alongside a faithful crew of supporting artists who are also known as “Sad Boys”. In a number of videos, Yung Lean dons a ridiculous bucket hat – a la Joey Bada$$ – rapping against a backdrop of vaporwave graphics. Overall the production is sound, and his raps (while lacking in content) are delivered confidently.

In a live setting, Yung Lean has the kind of presence that only the leader of an Internet cult following could have. It’s an effortlessly confident presence that gives him a laidback and detached air. With just a DJ table and his group of Sad Boys, he played for his adoring fans, who were all dressed in Yung Lean-appropriate garb, such as bucket hats, Polo caps, and vintage metal tees. The crowd was fairly rambunctious, and the average age of concert attendees was likely under 20.

Much like his music videos, Yung Lean’s live set was dizzying: with strobe lighting, a lot of movement, and high energy. Aesthetically, Yung Lean was able to deliver aspects of his music videos in a live performance: a cool, detached rap persona and the ridiculousness of it all. Without engaging in too much banter or dialogue between songs, Yung Lean was able to excite his audience in a way that’s becoming of an Internet emperor. And although it’s difficult to discern Yung Lean’s songs from one another, he still put on a performance up to industry standards, mostly in the confident delivery rather than content or technique. While Yung Lean blurs the lines between good and bad rap performance, I am at least able to appreciate his strong delivery and ability to amp up a crowd.

That being said, the question remains if whether or not Yung Lean is being completely serious, intentionally bad, or seriously bad. By repeatedly proving that “the medium is the message”, Yung Lean has managed to capture and capitalize on the attention from internet-obsessed youth; his albums occupy legitimate shelf space in some of our favourite record stores; and the Sad Boy empire lives on.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *