Johnnie Mikel isn’t hiding behind any bland poeticisms in his latest release, the supple “Nothing to Lose;” in fact, he’s doing pretty much the exact opposite. “Nothing to Lose” is a pop song structured around a rather simplistic hook n’ harmony scheme, but for what it lacks in elaborate adornments it more than compensates us for in unbridled charisma. The lyric video shares the cutting dialogue Mikel unleashes with us in plain-text, but even if his words had been gibberish in this track, the very tone of his vocal would be enough to convey just how invested he is in making pop music unmissable this year.
There’s a lot of kick to the chorus in this song, and from my perspective, I think this further supports just how obvious it is that Mikel has a lot of heart in every word he’s singing here. He isn’t merely dishing out relatable poetry from behind the microphone in “Nothing to Lose” – I get the impression that he’s speaking from a place of balladic humbleness instead of a cocky pop star’s inner-workings. Mikel doesn’t want to tell us a story in this track so much as he wants to shoot the breeze, which isn’t easy to come by in contemporary pop anymore.
This percussion is pretty fierce right out of the box, but it’s hardly a facet of overindulgence. Honestly, there isn’t a single element in this track that I would say qualifies as being particularly excessive in comparison to anything else (here or in the mainstream pop market), and for the most part this is true of the other songs in Johnnie Mikel’s discography. He’s never been much of inefficiency, and rather than trying to cut something over the top and theatrical in this most recent release, he’s rightly sticking to what he knows works best.
As much as I like the lyrics in this song, I don’t believe they would be quite as unique were they being sung by anyone other than Johnnie Mikel here. “Nothing to Lose” has a straightforward demeanor that could potentially work well for a lot of different artists in theory, but when I think about how essential Mikel’s flow is to the overall emotionality of the song, it’s really difficult for me to picture anyone else helming the microphone for this number. He’s got a unique stylishness about him, and in some ways it’s what gives this single an edge.
I can’t speak for the rest of the music critics in the underground right now, but personally I’m very excited to see and hear what Johnnie Mikel is going to produce in the wake of “Nothing to Lose.” He’s emerged from the recording studio with his most mature look so far in this track and its exceptionally engaging lyric video, and as long as he keeps avoiding the pitfalls that come with overextending creative concepts, there shouldn’t be any reason why his work and the artistry that inspires it doesn’t find a bit of mainstream accolades this summer.
by Bethany Page