Finneas O’Connell has crammed a lot into his brief career. A bit-part role on Glee was quickly usurped by co-writing and producing songs for younger sister Billie Eilish, a creative switch that has so far earned the 24-year-old eight Grammys and further production work for the likes of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.
Though he has been hailed, alongside Eilish, for morphing pop into more avant-garde shapes, much of O’Connell’s debut album plays it relatively straight. He’s a lovelorn acoustic troubadour on opener A Concert Six Months from Now, while the worthy, overblown Hurt Locker recalls the strained emotion of The X Factor’s James Arthur. The cringe-inducing The Kids Are All Dying (“How can you sing about drugs, politicians are lying”), meanwhile, is Elton John’s Benny and the Jets as covered by the Script.
Things improve on the album’s quieter moments; the lilting Only a Lifetime cocoons a lyric about trying to stay present in a classy John Legend-style ballad, while Love Is Pain muses on the certainty of death amid Disney strings and soft electronica. But the highs are few and far between, with the clunky Auto-Tune and nostalgia-saturated The 90s amounting to a late 2021 nadir.