The late 2010’s were fairly hit and miss for indie-pop artists, and the biggest reason why? Pointless compositional fluff, which is exactly what you won’t find in the new single and music video from Chris Mardini, “Sleepless.” Instead of weighing his third song down with a lot of needless bells and whistles like synthesized harmonies, auto-tuned vocals and compromised basslines that bump into each other more than they ever should, Mardini creates an atmospheric, melody-based pop song that is as indebted to the sludgy indie rock of yesteryear as it is the squeaky-clean urban pop of the 2020’s. It might seem like an impossible balance to strike even for the most talented of performers, but for this teenage superstar in the making, it’s not out of his reach in “Sleepless,” which is quickly gaining the kind of traction that a smart independent single needs to improve a budding young songwriter’s career – not to mention his place in the food chain. This certainly isn’t the only track of its type worth writing home about this January, but it’s definitely required listening just the same.
Mardini’s vocal has come into its own since the debut of his first single, and that’s never more obvious than in the lead-in to the chorus of this single. He straddles the rhythm seamlessly, leading the way with the cadence of his words rather than waiting for a drumbeat to carve out a highway to heavens for him. The mix is tight as can be, leaving no space for fat on the bassline and making the groove as important to the colorful stride of the music as any of the other elements are – guitars included.
It would be interesting to know whether Mardini wrote the lyrics for this song before he wrote the music or vice versa, because, in all actuality, it’s hard to tell what’s the main centerpiece here. Everything is clicking so well that there’s not a lot of aesthetical definition, which despite being a drawback for the pop puritans among us is something I would applaud as much as I would the lead vocal in this song.
Efficient but not lacking in grandiosity where it actually matters the most, Chris Mardini’s latest single is a must-listen for pop fans everywhere this season. Mardini sounds wise beyond his years from a lyrical standpoint, but I don’t think we’re hearing some sort of a stylistic peak here at all. My guess is that he’s going to become the artist that he wants to be over the course of the next decade, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he dropped some award-worthy jams between now and then. He shouldn’t rush anything about his technique at the moment; if I were him, I would take my time cultivating every last part of my sound before getting into the studio to record an LP. This is a young composer who knows exactly what kind of balladry he wants to produce, and his swagger definitely makes “Sleepless” a sweet new sensation as much as his voice does.