Too Bright is beautiful and gay, and I love it. Perfume Genius balances dreamy and ethereal musical composition with poetic lyrics. The album works very well as a cohesive unit and many of the songs are also strong. Mike Hadreas is the artist behind Perfume Genius; he has released several singles and three albums. He released his first album Learning in 2010 and his second in 2012 with Put Your Back N 2 It. Too Bright was released in 2014.
Too Bright is both beautiful and honest. The album complexly explores male queerness, but I don’t think it exclusively applies to male queerness. The album is cohesive in a way few albums are. It doesn’t sound the same, some songs are closer to alternative rock and others are really dreamy but in most songs the tone of Hadreas voice stays consistent. Listening to the album in order is really enjoyable because there are great transitions and builds.
There are quite a few songs that are worth mentioning, I can’t decide if my favorite is “Queen” or “Grid”. “Queen” starts the question “Don’t you know your Queen?” it is a double entendre because it sounds like “Don’t you know you’re Queer?”. In the verse Hedreas pairs beautiful imagery with ugly and revolting imagery. I really like how he connects identity to societies views. It is a rally cry because he is unapologetically being open about his identity. “Queen” is closer to rock than most of the album, it’s a little angry in the electric guitar part and drum beat. It could be one of my all time favorite songs.
“Grid” has more disorienting electronic sounds, a rhythmic bass beat gradually gets louder and syncopated as the song progresses and there are some pretty cool vocal compressions. The instrumentals and background vocals are harsher but Hadreas voice is sweet. Like Queen, Grid has multiple meanings, the title is a reference to one of the first acronyms for HIV, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, but many of the lyrics are from “I Decline” which is about Hadreas struggle with addiction.
Several other songs are really exceptional: the bridge in “Fool” is phenomenal. It is ethereal and echoey, it builds and builds. “Fool” is about straight women use gay men as props so I really like how free the bridge is in contrasts with the exploitive lyrics. “Too Bright” is also ethereal; it sounds like a prayer. “I’m a Mother” is on the weirder dark side of ethereal, everything sounds really heavy and the words are difficult to understand but I’m a fan. “My Body” seems to be about living in a body that is not healthy. It really resonates with me because it does a really good job of describing the balance between taking care of yourself while also knowing that the extra effort probably won’t be worth it. The song has a lot of distortion but it balances it with quiet moments.
Too Bright is self deprecating but it is also beautiful. It is so great that while a central theme of the album is queerness and homophobia each song is not trying to become the next formulaic gay anthem as written by straight pop singers. I actually really love how blunt and realistic it because, personally, it is more relatable. So listen to Too Bright if you are also sad and queer it’s a good time.