‘We’re All Alone In This Together’ review

Taking a dive into the detail of Dave’s latest album, track by track.

Dave’s sophomore album is the follow up to his critically acclaimed album PSYCHODRAMA, which earned both an BRIT award and Mercury award. After a 3 year hiatus, Dave’s return was highly anticipated and the release of single ‘Clash’ featuring Stormzy, under two weeks before the album release date added fuel to the fire. All good music deserves some time and care to find the hidden gems crafted by the artists; so let’s take a deeper dive into ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’. 

We’re All Alone 

This album is made up of 12 tracks, rounding the whole piece up nicely to 1 hour. The title of the first track is the start of the album title – juxtaposing aloneness with a collective ‘we’. In a July 2021 interview with GQ,  Dave said ‘Hans Zimmer said it to me on FaceTime. He was like, “Dave, remember, we’re all alone in this together.’ In the same interview, he talks about the gorgeous cover art, which he says is a repainting of Claude Monet’s Impression, Soleil Levant. The raw pinkness is reminiscent of dawn and new journeys. That’s one way the album can be interpreted; Dave’s new journey of discovering himself, after PSYCHODRAMA and everything that came with success. 

A common theme Dave adapts throughout his sophomore studio album is the motion pictures. The intro of the song – making it the intro to the entire project – is the sound of a movie projector reel turning which is usually heard at the start of movies. Spoken interjections by an male voice call ‘quiet on set’ and ‘action’, which are phrases often used by directors. Lines in the song like ‘I knew that my life was a film’ and ‘My life's full of plot-holes, and I'm fillin' 'em up’ show the cinematic theme of this album but also the journey’s aim— to search for the missing parts of his life. The song ends with a skit about an undisclosed film offer. 

Verdansk

The second track on the album, titled Verdansk in reference to the game Call of Duty: Warzone, sees Dave talking about beef, the big car he bought for his mum and how much designer he can afford to buy. Verdansk was highly anticipated as Dave previewed it on Instagram live almost a year ago and while the song is catchy and full of bravado, it doesn’t fully live up to the hype. But it still earns its place on the album and leads nicely onto the one and only: Clash. 

Clash

WAAIT’s only single is Clash, a heavyweight radio-ready track featuring Britain's best known rapper, Stormzy. This tune showcases Dave’s mind-blowing versatility, his talent to be able to create replayable songs with great bars alongside emotionally poignant tracks that come after Clash. Despite Stormzy and Dave’s friendship, this is their first collaboration on a record and was released in June of 2021, generating excitement for the upcoming album release. The infectious flows include Stormzy’s response to rapper Chip, with whom he has been in feud with since October last year. Chip released two subsequent diss tracks and this is Stormzy’s first proper response. Clash is catchy, lyrically sound and the most generally popular on the album so far. 

In The Fire

This song samples the 1970’s black choir group Florida Mass Choir’s 1982 hit song ‘Have You Been Tried In The Fire’, the fire symbolising the struggles that individuals have been through. With features from UK rap veterans Ghetts and Giggs and Manchester’s Meekz slipped in, the four artists talk about their pasts and how they escaped their tough situations. The verse by Giggs is probably the best feature on the album, intertwining racial profiling, boxer Muhammad Ali and references to The Simpsons. The song ends with another skit from music video producer Nathan James Tettey; ‘About where you were made. Like "Where you come from, where you're goin, London, Lagos, LA". The journey is the film.’

Three Rivers 

Dave’s fifth track Three Rivers tells a more collective story of immigrants moving to Britain. The first story we hear is about the Windrush generation, including inserted news clippings detailing the scandal and parts of an interview with a member of the Windrush generation.

The next tells the story of a man fleeing eastern Europe with his family to escape the Balkans War and the dictatorship of Milosevic. The final of the three stories is about the  middle east and the struggles that asylum seekers face to settle within the UK. 

The beautiful instrumental piano and violins by James Blake and Kyle Evans provide a soundtrack for the heart-wrenching stories of immigration that we hear. Finally, after a short instrumental section, we switch to British actor Daniel Kaluuya talking about discovering himself and understanding his place in the world. We learn that the title ‘three rivers’ is also what Daniel talks about in his speech, a sort of social position that society puts you in. He says ‘I had to switch Rivers, bro...It's like bein' black is an asset’ detailing that he had to stop letting society dictate his position and opportunities in the world. 

System 

System marks a switch in the middle of the album. The fun bouncy Afrobeat song created in collaboration with Wizkid, a Nigerian musical sensation, makes way for much needed relief after the heaviness of Three Rivers. The lyrics in the middle of the song, ‘For the times I was livin' in stress/ I wanna own all my, shh’ suggest that Dave is making up for his troubled youth. Maybe narratively, this is where Dave is taking the advice of Daniel Kaluuya, ‘switching rivers’ and enjoying what he’s worked hard for. 

Lazarus

Staying with the theme of Dave’s homeland Nigeria, this track in collaboration with artist BOJ  references the Bible in the title. In John 11:11, Jesus says ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up,’ and raises Lazarus of Bethany from the dead four days after his entombment. Dave touches on African neo-colonisation, boarding school and returning to Lagos. The chorus of the song sung by BOJ is in Yoruba, a language spoken by the Yoruba people. Another interesting snippet in this song is the short interjection by a American male voice putting pressure on Dave to make music, possibly a reference to his label, fans or his inner pressure to make art.   

Law of Attraction 

Produced by JAE5 and with the silky smooth vocal of Swedish R&B singer Snoh Aalegra, in this song Dave talks about his girlfriend and the problems in their relationship. The pair both talk about their breakup, returning to a toxic relationship repeatedly and the different meanings of love. The refrain ‘We could have been’ sums up Dave’s relationship with an unnamed girl and at the end of the song, the melody stops and then returns, possibly showing how circular this problematic relationship is. 

Both Sides of a Smile

Featuring James Blake, known for his sad soul-influenced song and electronic instrumental, this song is split almost exactly into ‘two sides’. The song begins with a clip referencing the Romeo and Juliet dynamic, bringing with it a number of interpretations. Later in the song, Dave says ‘Love's a film and I'm just flickin' through the parts I'm in’, potentially referencing Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film. British rapper Shasimone takes on the roles of Dave’s girl and together they recreate an argument and breakup. In the distinct second part of the song, Dave talks about his upbringing and his mum. In an Instagram caption posted on the day of the album’s release, Dave thanked and dedicated his album to his mum Juliet; ‘To my mum. Juliet. My Juliet. My first and last love. The best part of writing this album and film for you is how close we got and the respect I learnt for you in the process.’ This adds another layer to the idea of Juliet, and shows Dave changing from conventionally romantic love to familial love.

Twenty To One 

Cleverly, the 10th track on this album is 40 minutes into the album;  if you played the WAAIT when it was released at 12AM on 23rd July, then it would be 20 to 1AM when the song started. The number is also used to mean 2021, 20 people to 1 in a fight, 20 to 1 odd of getting caught by the police. Dave in this song is owning up to the things that are happening in his life and all around him. There’s no bravado or flexing – it really feels like his growth through the album and he’s finally being honest about where he is in his journey. The vulnerability on this track is impressive but it’s just a warmup compared to track number 11, Heart Attack. 

Heart Attack 

Heart Attack is a sequel to Dave’s 2016 track ‘Panic Attack’. Clocking in at almost 10 minutes, it is by far the longest track on WAAIT. Dave talks about drug dealing and the subsequent gang violence as a response to poverty faced by many in his area. He touches on wealth inequality in London and the lifetime of incarceration faced by many young people, saying  ‘There's no good reason to risk your freedom’. He also highlight the external and internal struggle of theses young people (‘We're fightin' the world, and we're fightin' within’)  and the final verses talk about the glorification of black culture, and glorification of the ‘road’ life, which actually is full of danger, violence and depression. He advises his younger friends to take their time and do better. The musically unaccompanied lines at the end of the song resonate strongly. The song ends with a clip of Dave’s mother talking about her struggles. 

Heart Attack is painfully honest and personal. Sometimes, we don't appreciate how much artists put on the line to be that truthful and vulnerable in their music and in this case, it’s clear how much pain has gone into telling his story. This is the standout track of the album. It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to listen to someone emptying their heart out into a song and if there’s one thing I would recommend you take away from reading this, it would be to take 10 minutes out of your day to go and listen to Heart Attack. 

Survivor’s Guilt 

Rounding the album up to exactly an hour long, Survivor’s Guilt samples artist Jorja Smith’s vocals to create a cinematic outro to the album. Dave finishes the album by saying ‘I'ma make a film for my mum/ And tell her, “Tell to the world this album is just the soundtrack”/[...] In this together,’ completing the album title that began with the first track. There’s been rumors and hints throughout the album that Dave is involved in creating a biography movie based on his mother, in collaboration with Daniel Kaluuya. It’s fitting then that Daniel’s voice closes out the album, ‘But I realise I'm here to live for what I stand for’. Once again, the honesty on this track makes it one of my favorites. 

We’re All Alone In This Together by Dave is a standout album, with standout tracks being Clash, Both Sides of A Smile, Heart Attack and Survivor’s Guilt. I really think that Dave is pushing the UK rap scene to create ambitious albums that go beyond hit singles and enjoyable listening to make profound social commentary. 

0 Comments

Post A Comment

You must be signed in to post a comment. Click here to sign in now

You might also like

The Badger Cavalry - A Ludlow Fringe gem

The Badger Cavalry - A Ludlow Fringe gem

by Shaun Bradley

Read now