The Gloomy Tapes, Vol. 1 (2018) – Call Me Karizma Album Review (Content Warning)

Source: callmekarizma-1

“Call Me Karizma” is the stage name of Morgan Parriott; born April 28th, 1995 from New Prague, Minnesota. He began writing music at age 12. His song “F U Till I F U” (Uninvited, 2016) became a major success in April 2016; it was played over 11 million times on major streaming services. He later landed a record deal with Arista Records (affiliated with Sony) in 2018.

I personally firsted discovered Karizma through his song “Serotonin,” which is a track on Volume 2 of “The Gloomy Tapes.” The review for Volume 2 will come at a later time.

His music style is some fusion with Alternative Rap and Indie Rock, with pop, hip-hop and emo style influences. He frequently utilizes special effects and electronic sounds which adds a new layer of sound to his music. You’ll also often hear the chords of electric rhythm guitar and resonant keyboard melodies, along with a variety of sounds in the percussion section.

1. Introduction

This isn’t actually a song, it’s more so him going through each track on the EP and it’s meaning. I do recommend listening to it before you start listening to the actual music though, especially if you need a Content Warning. There are some pretty heavy subjects discussed in the review and the album itself, so if you are sensitive to mentions of s*icide, gun violence, self harm, depression and mental illness as a whole, please be advised.

2. Angel

This song is about struggling with alcoholism, particularly with his mother.

It’s written from a child’s perspective (“I got school in an hour and I still need breakfast,”) which adds a whole new layer to the meaning.

The most intimate part is when he describes the effects of his mother’s actions; for example the line “‘I hate when you mumble, please come to your senses.” and “This coca-cola got you trippin onto the kitchen counter. Can you drink some water?”

The story takes a darker turn with mentions of his parents arguing.

I beliebe it is alluded to at some point, his mother dies: “Someday maybe I’ll be with you mom, till then, Imma sing this song.”

The lyricism in the chorus shows the impact that the situation has taken on his mental health, as he just wants to escape the situation one way or another. “If I were an angel, I could fly away from here. I’m surrounded by strangers and no one knows just how I feel.“

The bridge is an extension of this but it isn’t quite a vague, as it details how exactly he wishes to be able to “fly away.”

To me, the instrumental is a direct contrast from the lyric content. The melodic part sounds like it could’ve be sampled from another “pop” song, almost giving a happier vibe, and then it surprises you. The bouncy rhythm is also a nice contrast to the lushness of the vocals, thank you reverb. I’m also a big fan of the percussion in this song; it has so many layers and just ties the whole song together (as a good percussion track should!!)

Overall its a really solid track. Gets me in feels a little, but I can also bump to it.

3. God Damnit (with Illenium)

Note: This track is missing from the EP on Apple Music but it is available as a single.

This song, as he mentioned in the introduction, is about the mistakes he made that hurt his relationship while he was touring on the road. First of all, props to the guy for owning up to that in such a public way. Talking about sex addiction so openly had to be hard.

And again, he used those common “pop-isms” we often see in today’s music that makes it sound like you’d hear it on the radio.

Listening to this also created a personal conflict within me. Something about the way this was written makes me sympathize not only with the girl, but with Karizma himself at the same time. It’s interesting how writing works.

4. Rockstar

“Rockstar” is simply talking about what he wants out of life and his career. Plenty of songs do that – specifically talking about the fame, getting girls, and money. But I mostly like this one for the musical aspects.

You get the elements of the “rockstar” vibe from the electric guitar in the background. There’s still that pop and hip-hop influence, which starts out low but comes in really having once you get to the second part of the chorus. Different effects are added such as vocal repeats and effects that distort the voice. The guitar is more prominent at this point and shows more of the rock influence. These additions truly add some depth to this 4-chord song.

This is more of a feel good song that you would hear at a party or club, and probably the most lighthearted song on this album; especially considering what comes next.

5. PSA: Johnny

“PSA: Johnny” is also not a song, but rather am intimate, recorded letter by Karizma himself in relation to the song “Johnny.” This 6 minute and 34 second recording starts off with the announcement of the date May 25, 2018 – which commemorates the day of the Noblesville West Middle School shooting in Noblesville, Indiana; where a 13 year old boy shot his science teacher and another student. He then opens eyes to the listener about the frequencies of such events, stating “Another school shooting happened today, one will probably happen again next week, and the week after that.”

He then goes on to state what he feels is his job as an artist, which is to open the listener’s mind within the few minutes that the song will be heard for. While he doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to speak on the politics and laws surrounding gun violence, he ties it in with a topic that he does have experience in, which is mental illness.

We learn about Karizma’s struggles with mental illness that he has been experiencing since he was very young. He also goes into the impact it has had on society. He appears to show disdain for treatments such as prescription pills being the be-all-end-all for for those struggling with their mental health, and the stigma that comes with mental health struggles especially as it pertains to children.

Karizma then details the story behind the song “Johnny”, which he states that he was discouraged by his management team to do. He states, “Johnny is a 12 year old boy; someone that you may know, but have no idea what’s going on in his head. Johnny could be a girl that comes home with cuts on her arms, but her parents tell her, ‘It’s a phase,’ and she’s gonna grow out of it. Johnny could be your son that starts posting weapons on social media, but you just say, ‘Boys will be boys.’ Johnny could be your friend who gets called a slut and tells you she wants to die every day, but you ignore the signs.”

He repeats that he does not excuse violence, and those who commits such acts. But he does make you think about why a child would be pushed to do such things. He encourages the listeners to pay more attention to the signs, and make more resources for those struggling to be more open about what they’re feeling, as he states that he didn’t have anyone to talk to growing up, and didn’t even feel comfortable telling his friends. This hit close to home with me personally as well.

He ends the letter with this:

“I am no politician; I’m not a lawmaker, or a judge, or a person of authority. I am no longer a student, I am not a teacher, or a parent.

I am a human being.

And I wrote this letter to hopefully bring us together; to civilly and quickly put our kids first, and make mental illness a priority. I will make no apologies for this song, if it pisses off a million people. if it helps one kid know that their mental health is [expletive] important and their society is here to support them through it all, then it’s worth every bit of hate. I’m gonna do my best from here on out to listen.

Your friend,

Riz.”

Even though it isn’t a song, this is one of the most powerful tracks on this album, aside from the song “Johnny” itself.

And with that, we segway into “Johnny”.

6. Johnny

Johnny is written in the perspective of the school shooter. In his letter he stated that he was made aware that writing the song in this point of view may stir some controversy, which he then says is exactly why he wouldn’t change anything about it.

This song is just….wow. The lyrics are very direct, no indication of holding back anywhere. Hey, he did say that was point.

Not only does he tell the story in “Johnny’s” perspective, he literally acts it out. That’s the most chilling part of the whole song, whether you’ve been caught in a shooting or not. The lyricism of the whole thing is quite clever actually. The flow never stops, which of kind of symbolic of the whole situation going by so fast.

Like, it’s as if he wrote a dialogue that could very well be a good example of how these things go down.

Johnny is a kid that has been severely bullied by his classmates, something that is the often the case in school shootings. “Mom and daddy, you just don’t get it. All the kids at school say I’m different,” is an example of what he was talking about in “PSA: Johnny,” about kids not having someone that understands what they’re experiencing to talk to.

The instrumental is very distorted, and the melodic phrases are short. Again I believe this could be symbolic of Johnny’s mind whilst they whole scene is playing out. Like the distortion could be his inability to think through his actions.

Again, he utliizes the use of effects such as the sound of a police siren and an officer talking on a walkie-talkie, signifying the police racing to the school.

I also liked how he used the example of “Cindy” as the model for the “perfect” life; she’s nice, wants to help everyone, got a scholarship to Yale, appears to be very smart, etc.

The song ends with what seems to be a “Breaking News” coverage of the story. It’s language is very cliche, but the point is that all these news outlets tend to say the same rehearsed dialogue when these things happen. However as it progresses tp the end, its language tends to appear to be Riz speaking in his own words, ending with “Together we can make a difference.”

Johnny is probably the biggest emotional roller-coaster on this EP, which is why it’s one of my favorite songs in the collection.

7. Let Me Go

The last song on this album, “Let Me Go” is essentially about the development of Karizma over the course of his career. He mentioned it telling his parents to “let him go” and that he could prove them wrong, I assume about him pursuing a career as a musician. It’s inferred that his parents did not support his music career.

He nearly gave up home until he was picked to go on tour with another artist, which led to him touring all 50 states. He ends the song by talking about his tour, stating that next he will be home (as in performing in his hometown or state), hoping that his parents will be there.

All too often we hear of musicians being held back from perfecting their craft due to parent/family disapproval. So to hear a success story come out of this common thing is refreshing to see, and I agree with Riz that it’s a good way to end the album.

This song is the most musically intimate on the album. The rhythm is still intact but it’s more relaxed, paired with a simple drumbeat that’s a stark contrast from the complexity of the drum track in other songs. This is shown more during the verses, where all is left is the lushness of the keys playing in the background while Riz tells his story. The drums are completely omitted during these moments, which really allows the listener to focus on the story.

I definitely recommend CMK for those who can handle emotionally heavy content (it can be a lot for people). This is one of the few albums that I’ve felt you really get to know the artist through his music; I feel like I don’t need to watch an interview of them to know what they’re about. I like that because I feel that that’s how you know an artist has put their heart and soul into their craft. You can tell that the album was made with special attention to the fine details. Melodically, some of the music sounds familiar, but I like how that familiarity clashes with the subject matter of his music, as it makes a nice and noticeable contrast without it being too much. If you’re looking for music to “open your mind” – as was his intentions for the album – I would definitely say to give this a listen.

Thank you for reading, and, be sure to be on the lookout for my thoughts on Volume 2! Be well and stay safe.

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