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Album Review of Quinn XCII’s A Letter To My Younger Self

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(courtesy photo)

By Allie Ouendag

Mikael Temrowski, better known as Quinn XCII, released his fourth full length album titled A Letter To My Younger Self at midnight on July 10. 

This comes after a series of hits following his previous album From Michigan, With Love. A Detroit native and Michigan State University alum, Quinn is a well-known staple with college-aged and teenage listeners throughout the Midwest. His indie pop genre is well liked pretty universally, including by my mother. 

I started listening to Quinn after he dropped his first EP “Change of Scenery” in 2015. “Another Day in Paradise” was an instant favorite and an easy listen that provided a mellow alternative to radio pop. I would argue that Quinn was quintessential in bringing up the bedroom pop movement that rejected the systematic and formulated way of writing pop songs. Instead Quinn relied on his own skills to create unique melodies paired with innovative electronic beats.  

I was privileged enough to see Quinn perform at 20 Monroe Live last year with openers Ashe and Christian French. I was truly impressed with his ability to generate energy in the crowd, especially in Grand Rapids which he gave frequent shoutouts to as being one of his strongest fan bases in the country.  

Despite this, however, I could not help but be somewhat disappointed in his latest release of A Letter To My Younger Self. Prior to the release date Quinn dropped multiple promising singles from the album including “Coffee” featuring Marc E. Bassy, “Two 10’s,” and “Stacy.” Between the two I much more enjoyed the collaboration with Bassy in “Coffee” as having a solid beat and easy lyrics to sing in the car. Both singles can be described as “classic Quinn” pulling in influences from alternative hip hop and pop. I fully expected the singles he released beforehand to cater to a larger audience and therefore be somewhat generic, what I was not expecting, however, was to see the entire album follow in those footsteps.

Starting on a positive note, the best way to describe the album is a coherent mix of indie and electronic pop focused on the nostalgia of childhood. I most enjoyed the opening track “Am I High Rn” featuring blackbear. The production was quality and blackbear’s, also known as Matthew Musto, verse was strong and rhythmic when paired with an electronically produced heavenly choir in the background. Lyrically, Quinn is able to create a narrative out of the classic teenage experience ranging from love interests to asking your parents for a quick 20 bucks before going out. 

My biggest dispute with this album is the limited risk taken in creating it. When listening to From Michigan, With Love and A Letter To My Younger Self side by side you see they are essentially the same album with new featured artists. At points I was honestly bored of hearing the exact same baselines and shallow lyrics for 40 minutes. Despite being able to tell a clear story, lyrically Quinn lacked any depth and instead opted to appeal to the masses with easy sing-alongs. To be fair, Quinn found his niche; he found a formula that works and appeals to a wide audience. However, this will not put him in leagues with other artists experimenting to create a superior sound and challenge the mainstream pop movement. 

After listening to the album through, I found myself longing for 2016’s Quinn when his style was unique and featured tracks such as “Bootleggin’” that challenged the listener’s ear with a horn section and frequent base drops. Instead, after three albums, Quinn delivered what he always does: a solid base of pop music that gets listeners singing, but not necessarily thinking. This album is great for those who want something to throw on that everyone will enjoy, or background music for doing homework, but if you’re looking for a genuinely challenging and introspective album I would recommend looking elsewhere.

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