Album Review: Tierra Whack, ‘World Wide Whack’

    Shaking away the metaphysics of Tierra Whack’s fictional pseudo-documentary Cypher is no easy feat, nor does sophomore record World Wide Whack allow it. The 2023 film — during which the US artist is initiated into an Illuminati-inspired group that “consolidates power through star-making” — posits Whack as a puppet of industry to control the public. Amid cloning and mind-control conspiracies, Whack loses control of her artistry and fears replaceability in the churning pop culture machine. In “tapping into the collective anxieties of the culture,” as one review put it, Cypher’s dark jest frames World Wide Whack too. Described as her new debut — one that reintroduces Whack as a sad clown — World Wide Whack is just as focused on the conspiracy of fame as its predecessor, yet, on the contrary, its concern lies not with audiences but with Whack’s darkening state of mind under sizzling spotlight.

    Largely, this re-upped debut recommits to the scaffolding of actual debut, the critically acclaimed Whack World, which features minute-long vignettes to traverse Whack’s humorously dark imagination and caricaturist vocality. Inspired by a seventeenth-century Italian black-and-white sad clown named Pierrot — a stock character perpetually stricken by romantic frustration — Whack immerses in performance, but behind the curtain, deep cracks in face-paint emerge near-immediately and abundantly, and fourth wall experimentalism undoes the artist at her seams.

    Expectedly from Whack’s lyricism, World Wide Whack features dark double entendres at every turn. The disco-inspired ‘Moovies’ sees Whack saddened by a lover’s lacking efforts; Frankenstein soul across ‘Burning Brains’ addresses the dissatisfaction of a partner; and ‘X’ has Whack considering a replacement. Here, it’s fun, stylish, bold, genre-evasive and enthralling. But in switching to Pierrot’s point-of-view these relationships appear solely parasocial, traversing instead the matrix of fame. Isolated by stardom, Pierrot-Whack is “balling on [her] lonely”, begins to treat “fans like homies,” and becomes disillusioned by adoration. On ‘Imaginary Friends’, she sings: “When nobody cared, you cared for me/They say you’re a conspiracy.”

    Struggling with mental health, suicidal ideation fast becomes World Wide Whack’s red thread, an aching at the heart of the performance to both contrast and uphold sad clown whimsy. “When I grow up I want to hang from a ceiling,” she sings on ‘Imaginary Friends’. Plentiful onstage cries further darken the record: she reaches the “final stage of being numb” on ‘Numb’, and in nearing her end, spews manic depressive, near-conspiratorial sentiment on ‘Two Night’: “It’s not my fault that this is the end […] prepare for when I go missing […] death is real, life is fake.” Familiar comedic clownery and wit remains, and no track is ever anything less than entertaining, as if she’s prioritizing the show: “Before I go, I want to let you know/ I didn’t pay the light bill this month.” To close the curtain, ‘27 Club’ confesses the hardship of accolade: amid such renown she’s lost joy in the performance and holds her life and artistry at ransom — “I can show you how it feels when you lose what you love […] Looking for something to commit to/ Suicide,” she sings, dancing in clown attire and smiling maniacally — leaving audience suspended in awe, unease and applause. Separated by eerie piano interludes, the fifteen tracks of World Wide Whack showcase a darkly layered and emotional narrative on chronic depression — contrasted only by its near-constantly innovative off-piste R&B — and such depressive realism and intellectual commentary lends itself to Whack’s cartoonish fourth wall experimentalism. Ultimately, World Wide Whack becomes the sort of record that cements artistic vision and legacy.

    The irony lies in the applause itself, of course, which fuels the parasocial transactionality between clown and patron, a sentiment shared by Bo Burnham’s Inside. Doubly, perhaps — particularly under the lens of scripted docufilm Cypher, with all its fictionalised music industry horrors — Whack posits World Wide Whack as a red-pilling of the unsettling reality of artistry. But there’s reluctance to interpret too much, and in Cypher she observes: “People find what they want when they’re looking for something. When they want something to be real, then all they see are connections.” Yet World Wide Whack  an effective parable and cleverly constructed record that, sensitively, makes a clownery of depression — undeniably stares into the abyss of fame, and as Whack returns to her vibrant visual fantasy, there’s a sense that, between all the heartache and horror, she seeks agency and connection, even as a clown-for-hire in an all-consuming, disorienting industry. “I had this strange feeling my story wasn’t mine anymore,” she concludes amid snowballing fame in Cypher, “like I had lost my hold on it.”

    Arts in one place.

    All of our content is free, if you would like to subscribe to our newsletter or even make a small donation, click the button below.

    People are Reading

    Shaking away the metaphysics of Tierra Whack’s fictional pseudo-documentary Cypher is no easy feat, nor does sophomore record World Wide Whack allow it. The 2023 film — during which the US artist is initiated into an Illuminati-inspired group that “consolidates power through star-making” — posits Whack...Album Review: Tierra Whack, 'World Wide Whack'