You can feel nostalgia for lost futures running through every note and lyric of Lil Peep's music, memorialized today on the massive compilation album Everybody's Everything.
Even while he was alive, his music was heavy with a sense of doom, always colored by a longing for a different mind and a different world.
Doom was part of his brand. He seemed allergic to his own mind and kinetically drawn to death; he appeared in a coffin on his last album, Come Over When You're Sober, Part 1. On his song "ghost boy" he sings, "When you are on your own / Just know that I love you / I won't pick up the phone / Just know that I need you." Though he sang those words while he was alive, they sound like a cry from beyond the veil, a futile attempt at making contact.
Witchblades and Rockstars: Lil Peep's Raw Honesty
Lil Peep always made music like he wasn't afraid to die, like every song could've been his last. Always, there was a sense of urgency, a throb to the basslines and a desperation to his voice that made it sound raw and real even when played through clusters of filters. The same went for his lyrics, which constantly veered between being laundry lists of vices and spurts of raw confession. "In high school I was a loner / I was a reject, I was a poser," he says on "witchblades," another song that toes the line between almost absurd performative artifice and moments of startling honesty. "I swear I mean well. I'm still going to hell."
When you listen to Lil Peep, you dive into a universe of pure id. The emotions are undistilled, dark and shrouded in decay, but they often veer towards surprising earnestness. From the start, Lil Peep was always honest about his desire to love and be loved, to be remembered and to do no harm to others.
Lil Peep - Text Me (ft. Era) (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
A lot of his songs rely on pop chord progressions and camp, which adds a sense of wide-eyed innocence to the music. That can feel like a kindness amidst the wilderness of all the binges and death, an eye in the storm of bass and hyper-processing. The same goes for his lyrics—he'll sound like a jaded old soul, but every once in a while his youth shows its face, or a wildly cheesy line will pop out of nowhere. "I'm a real rockstar," he says in "Rockstars," and you remember he's just a kid who fell into the vortex of Los Angeles. Of course, it wound up swallowing him.
A Portrait of Gen-Z Counterculture: Xanax, Social Media, and SoundCloud Clout
Throughout his short life, Peep struggled with anxiety and drug addiction, both of which made it difficult for him to connect to others. He took Xanax and other drugs to escape, and his music is a kind of map of the internal anxieties (and external methods of self-medication) that seem to define much of Gen-Z. There's a constant oscillation between overdose and withdrawal, a desire to feel everything and then a desire to escape it all.
Peep's short life, as chronicled on Everybody's Everything, is perhaps as good a portrait of the emotions of young people in 2017 as anything else in pop culture today. In the social media dimension, users are confronted with images of death and apocalypse, posted right alongside artificial visions of glory and glamour. Naturally, conflicting emotions like guilt, crushing realities, and illusions blur together in technicolor on every feed, just as they do on every Peep song.
Fortunately, Peep was a capable musician, capable of spinning these emotions into cohesive, hypnotic gestalt. "Text Me" is a fragile and spacey guitar ballad that will speak to children of the digital age as well as anyone who's ever felt a sense of longing for something they couldn't quite reach. "Belgium" is another song about disconnect that threads dreamy synths with a pounding, heady rhythm. Still, some of his best songs remain unreleased, like the impossibly dreamy "lose my mind," the woozily dark "The Way I See Things," and the anthemic "Broken Smile."
LiL PEEP - The Way I See Things www.youtube.com
Kurt Cobain and the Legacy of Fallen Stars
Peep is perpetually compared to Kurt Cobain, another star who struggled with depression and drugs and died too young. The Nirvana frontman was well-known for his hyper-sensitivity and empathy, which made it hard for him to live in the real world. The same could be said of Lil Peep, who posted a series of desperate captions on Instagram in the months and days leading up to his death. The day before he died, he wrote, "I just wanna be everybody's everything."
However, it's now almost certain that Peep didn't commit suicide. He died at 21 from an accidental fentanyl overdose, before he had the chance to fill arenas (as he certainly would have), before his sadness could mature and crystallize, before his music could ripen, and before he could make deeper connections and develop his burgeoning social consciousness. Because of this, his body of work will always be incomplete. Even so, Everybody's Everything is strong on its own, but even more so when you realize it's a skeleton. These songs are graveyards, haunted by everything that could've been.
That's also part of why, in spite of the care that was clearly put into curating the album and documentary, it's still hard to listen to them without wondering if they sound how Peep would've wanted them to, or if he would've wanted them released at all.
Sometimes, though, it's hard not to feel like Peep knew his fate. On "haunt u," one of his many unreleased songs, he sings, "I could live forever if I want to / I could stop time / but I never wanna do that again." He's aware that he could fill arenas, stop the world in its tracks, but he doesn't want that kind of power. Ironically, it's so easy to imagine that song filling outdoor amphitheaters and to envision fans' cellphone lights waving along like stars.
The theorist Mark Fisher coined the term "hauntology" to describe any feeling of "nostalgia for lost futures," emphasizing that usually, the loss of faith in a future—the belief that we've reached some kind of end of history—is involved in holding these futures back from becoming real. In this way, Lil Peep's vision of his fate became a self-fulfilling prophecy. "When I die, I'mma haunt you," he sings at the end of "haunt u." Few promises have been better kept.
lil peep - haunt u [extended w/lyrics] www.youtube.com
lil peep - star shopping (prod. kryptik) www.youtube.com