A swaggering beat exchanges daggers with a neon-colored electric guitar. Caught in the crossfire, we discover a harmony as gorgeous as the heavens but not nearly as enticing as it is menacing. Morgan Mallory slinks out of the adjacent darkness and begins to paint us an emotional, poetic portrait atop the sonic canvas being conjured up behind him in real time. This is “Bullet,” Mallory’s latest single, and as we could probably have guessed just from taking a look at its name, it’s one pop single that can slash through just about anything once it’s been given the proper volume to do so. “Bullet” doesn’t necessarily break any new ground for the artist responsible for creating it, but while it isn’t a direct departure from what has become his signature sound, to say that it doesn’t showcase some major growth on his part just simply wouldn’t be true. Morgan Mallory wants us to know just how much he can accomplish when there’s nothing to stop him from dabbling in whatever concepts he sees fit, and in this sense, his new single should be considered a grand slam.
There are a lot of different ways “Bullet” could be broken down in a live setting, and I for one would be really curious to hear how Mallory would approach it in such a capacity. There’s a lot of attention to detail in this mix, but I don’t think that means the song couldn’t be converted into a straight acoustic number centering solely on the vocal harmony in the eye of the storm. On the flipside, there are a few different means in which Mallory could make this more of a club track – the bassline has room to swell on stage, and in the right context I could see the beats being manipulated into an extended jam perfect for burning up the dancefloor until the night perishes under the morning sun. Versatility is the most important element in this composition, and while the star of the show is exploiting different aspects of its melody here, there’s really no limit to what he could do with this song in a freeform situation, which isn’t always the case with new pop music.
I hadn’t heard much of his work before now, but I’m very intrigued by what Morgan Mallory is experimenting with in “Bullet,” the first cut from an upcoming EP set to be released later this year. He’s not playing it conservative here, but with that said, he’s absolutely steering clear of the so-called ‘play it safe’ pop themes that have dominated the genre in the last half-decade or so. “Bullet” is constructed like a rock n’ roll anthem but finishes like a chic pop power ballad, and despite the juxtaposition of influences, there’s scarcely a moment where Mallory doesn’t sound like he is in complete control of the song’s creative trajectory. Is it a little rough around the edges? Sure, but in 2020, that’s something that should be celebrated in pop more than it’s derided, especially when taking into account how little energy we’ve collectively heard from the genre in the last few years.