Serena Ryder Puts a Feel-Good Spin on Serious Themes on 'The Art of Falling Apart'

Serena Ryder Puts a Feel-Good Spin on Serious Themes on 'The Art of Falling Apart'
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Serena Ryder is indeed "Better Now." Her The Art of Falling Apart is a retro-inspired pop testament to the artist's personal wellness journey, chronicling her struggles with mental illness and subverting expectations by celebrating her newfound sobriety with danceable, up-tempo tracks. The music is catchy and vibrant, and Ryder's vocals are alternatingly soulful, moody and joyous. The Art of Falling Apart will delight existing fans, and is a strong entry in the singer-songwriter's discography.

The Art of Falling Apart is a stylistic departure for Ryder — a pop album that dabbles in various genres, alternating between R&B, blues, funk and adult contemporary. Fresh and exciting moments are sprinkled throughout this daring album, which gleefully pushes the boundaries of genre convention. Ryder has demonstrated an appreciation for blues in the past, and in many ways, The Art of Falling Apart feels like a natural progression.

While The Art of Falling Apart is a new direction for Ryder, in general, the inclusion of soul elements in electropop music is a distinctly familiar vibe that never transcends its influences. Ryder has the chops to be a real blues and jazz powerhouse, and her sultry performances are a highlight of The Art of Falling Apart; it's a shame so much of her talent is being overshadowed by so much noise. The lyrics seem designed to be memorable rather than poignant; "Candy" is particularly vapid, seemingly by design. "Waterfall" and "Kid Gloves" aren't much better, each repeating a simple single metaphor that vaguely hints at some sort of adversity, while being too generic to resonate.

Despite some missteps, The Art of Falling Apart is a thoroughly enjoyable album. "Better Now" is the clear standout track, and its strength elevates the entire album. Ryder is at her best here: her crisp vocals cut through the instrumentation and hit home. More than any other track on The Art of Falling Apart, "Better Now" packs an emotional punch, and has the pure Top 40 appeal to remind listeners of the passion and talent that made Serena Ryder a big name. (ArtHaus)