Many of us were introduced to Giveon through Drake’s 2020 track ‘Chicago Freestyle’. The track opens with a sense of isolation, with distant pianos laying below impassioned croons. Giveon set the tone for the standout track, and immediately had people googling right after the first listen. Curiosities of his greatness were confirmed by his EPs Take Time and When It’s All Said And Done; a project that proved that his show-stealing ‘Chicago Freestyle’ performance wasn’t just a fluke.
Flash forward to now, Giveon has just released his debut album Give Or Take. It follows a huge 2021, where his acclaim continued to grow with an appearance on Justin Bieber’s single ‘Peaches’, and an extended version of his first EP When It’s All Said And Done… Take Time. In this latest offering, he wears his heart on his sleeve and thrives in his open-book approach.
So what does it sound like? Well, as Giveon journeys through the happenings of his life, the terrain changes, with the result being his most scenic sonics yet. Give or Take opens with ‘Let Me Go’, a sombre song rich with melancholic synths and a cinematic atmosphere. Tracks like ‘Lost Me’ are fast and luscious, with strumming guitars setting an urgent tone of reflection. His hit single ‘For Tonight’ feels perfectly suited for an arena concert confessional, with large, anthemic pianos looping and thousands of people singing and relating to Giveon bearing his soul. The way the album switches styles is like he’s switching lanes on the highway, with every time he indicates opening a new trajectory of emotion.
The emotion of Give Or Take creates the ecosystem of the scenery Giveon takes us through. At every turn, he reveals pieces of his life in-depth. Talking to Apple Music, Giveon states that this album’s concept revolves around him conversing with his mother, explaining “I really wanted to give people a look behind the curtains of a 26-year-old man growing up today.” The result is Giveon in a mode of self-expression, unleashing all his situational qualms, looking for comfort from the one who raised him. ‘July 16th’ finds him detailing the days beyond a breakup, delving into the myriad of feelings that occur during this grieving process. ‘At Least We Tried’ explores this theme further, with lyrics like “This don’t work, at least we tried, love is always a losing game,” emphasising the fact that romance can diminish, even when both are dedicated. The album closes with ‘Unholy Matrimony’, where Giveon goes into his fantasies of marriage, and how that vision has been altered by the struggles of his relationship. In the give and take of love, Giveon is bearing his soul, and looking for guidance.
The most evident example of growth on this album is that Giveon approaches these feelings alone. There are no features, or other perspectives to distract from his soliloquies. That howling voice on ‘Chicago Freestyle’ now stands centre stage, exploring the topics we all struggle with, and trying to find direction by talking to his mother; something all of us do when we approach a fork in the road. We often have to drive forward with our thoughts, wondering what could have been and gaining perspective at every corner. Give or Take serves as a companion for that journey, taking us down scenic spurs of ear-catching music and themes that resonate. When we first heard Giveon two years ago, we wanted to know more. Now, he’s giving us everything.