On September 24th, Ben Chandler released his new EP, UNITY. Headlined by the track “REJECT,” UNITY was “created primarily over FaceTime” and contains inspiration from “The Strokes, The Neighborhood, and Justin Bieber.” Chandler is throwing his hat into the pop/rock crossover ring alongside “Omar Apollo, Dominic Fike, Joji, Alec Benjamin, etc,” though if UNITY is any indication, he might surpass them in 2022.
Tracks like “Young Mistakes,” “Anything,” and “Losing You” are pop/rock masterpieces. You may ask why I say pop/rock instead of pop-rock. In this case, the slash is used because the tracks are predominantly guitar-based and, it could be argued, are the best example of the current state of rock in relation to pop. To mention The Strokes as an influence is not only an accurate assertion (“Young Mistakes” sounds like it could come off of Room On Fire or Angles) but also a gutsy one. To many, The Strokes were the last great guitar band. The last “rock” band with major crossover appeal. Depending on what you define as “rock,” this could apply to you. Ben Chandler is filling that pop/rock void supposedly left from the early 2000s, and that’s why I use the slash instead of the dash. It’s a mix of both genres, yes, but it is distinctly equal parts pop and rock.
I haven’t mentioned “Faith,” but this isn’t because it’s bad. It’s because it fits the pop genre more than the rock genre. Is it guitar-based? Yes. Does that inherently make it rock? Not really. That might seem contradictory, but if the three tracks mentioned in the previous paragraph are influenced by The Strokes and The Neighborhood, “Faith” is the one most influenced by Justin Bieber. No one would claim that Justin Bieber is rock. But that’s beside the point.
Ben Chandler is melding pop and rock in ways many of his contemporaries are not, and this needs to be celebrated. Tracks like “Anything” and “REJECT” are great statements of love, both of the other and of the self, and “Losing You” uses the right mix of distortion and clean bass to toe that line between pop, rock, and pop-punk. The production on this EP is amazing, and the songwriting shows promise. Give Ben Chandler one more project, and he’ll make it a point to blow your mind.
When the EP reaches the end, “REJECT” makes the listener want to cry, yeah, but also just repeat the entire EP. The use of an arpeggiated synthesizer at the end is reminiscent of Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR and Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma, which makes one wonder: what else is Chandler drawing from other genres? This leads to repeated listens, looking for more influences, thus gaining Chandler more streams, and leading to the success he deserves.
Speaking of leading to the success Ben Chandler deserves, listen to UNITY below and let us know what you think!