[ALBUM REVIEW] O’Connell’s hit debut album Optimist highlights his identity as a solo artist

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SHOWSTOPPER. Finneas O’Connell performs his music at the Austin City Limits music festival. While his younger sister Billie Eilish has stepped into the spotlight in the music industry, O’Connell has made a name for himself as well.

Finneas O’Connell’s Optimist, which dropped last Friday, Oct. 15, features dynamic lyricism in his debut album as a solo artist. O’Connell has been no stranger to the music industry after his younger sister and pop star sensation Billie Eilish stepped into the spotlight in 2015. O’Connell’s exploration of his own songwriting and identity as an individual artist shines through in the transcendently encapsulating 13-track album, despite the ties of his reputation to Eilish. After receiving the Grammy award for nonclassical producer of the year in 2020 and becoming the youngest to win that category, his success with Optimist is hardly a surprise.

“What They’ll Say About Us,” with 37 million streams on Spotify, takes a hopeful yet nuanced stance on the future with a passionate leadup to the chorus that builds: “We’ve got the time to take the world / And make it better than it ever was / That’s what they’ll say about us.” Several other tracks have this same slowed ballad feel with traces of sentimentality that capture the emotional aspects of O’Connell’s mind, while others form a more driving groove and cultivate a different tone, such as “Medieval,” “Around My Neck,” and “The 90s.”

After receiving the Grammy award for nonclassical producer of the year in 2020 and becoming the youngest to win that category, his success with Optimist is hardly a surprise.”

The closing track, “How It Ends” (“This isn’t how it ends / This isn’t where we put down our pens / Go tell the businessmen / This isn’t how it ends”) is one example of the latter, showcasing electronic undertones twisted with the heightened tempo. Similarly, “Happy Now” features hints of jazz while cultivating that same driving beat and jubilant tone, showing off O’Connell’s vocal range.

Conclusively, the arrangement and order of Optimist does not disappoint, and the individual tracks are definitely playlist-worthy. “Love Is Pain” emulates the raw emotion of O’Connells’ hit single “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night” from his 2019 EP. He sings, “There’s this dream I’ve had ’bout mom and dad / Makes me so sad, I wake up crying / Can’t believe I’ll have to live through that / Wish it wasn’t mandatory dying.” The curated selection of songs in Optimist flow beautifully through ballads, jazz, and electronic tunes.

While individual tracks weren’t as outstanding as his reputation in the music industry may cause listeners to expect, the multiple hits blended with his more mediocre songs make for a lovely, cohesive listening experience.

I recommend this album wholeheartedly due to the diverse styles of music it incorporates and O’Connell’s incredible lyricism, but some tracks on the album are potential skips depending on your specific genre preferences.

Rating: ★★★★