As someone who has been a fan of Jack Rua for a while now, I was cautiously optimistic when I heard that he was going to be releasing a mini album. Jack, who has previously featured on our ‘artist interviews’ section of our site, released his debut album ‘Narcissus’ on the 26th of June 2020 and thankfully there was no need for the caution to my optimism, as the album not only met my expectations but exceeded them!
Jack, who is an Irish glam pop artist, first started writing music at only 15 years of age. From then, he has performed under a number of different stage names and has played in various well known venues such as Whelans, the Academy, the Mercantile and Vicar Street. After graduating with a BA in Commercial Modern Music from BIMM Dublin, Jack took a hiatus from performing. In 2017 he moved to New York City and immersed himself in the music; drag; burlesque and theatrical scenes of the city, absorbing these new influences and allowing them to inform his own art. Moving back to Dublin in 2018 he began to record with Porridge, Tenderhook, and developing visuals with PureGrand.
Jack began releasing his music in 2019 to international recognition, receiving radio airplay on RTE 2FM, Spin 1038, Classic Hits 4FM, BBC Introducing and KCLR to name a few. On the 26th of June 2020, he showcased the beauty that is Narcissus to the world.
Narcissus is an eight track album, full of catchy dance pop numbers. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was distinguished for his beauty and ended up falling in love with his own reflection in the water. He eventually pined away until he met his demise. The title track of this album opens with disconcerting music which, as I was listening through earphones, passed from ear to ear and instantly gave me chills. The music alone was a great opener which grabbed my attention straight away. The song opens with the question ‘Why don’t you love me, the way that you used to?’ and goes on to describe someone who is pining for love. Later in this song, Rua says that ‘In the mirror is the shape of a man I call Narcissus’, which pays tribute to it’s Greek namesake. The electro sounds and the repetition of ‘Why don’t you love me?’ in the background of the song really add to the infectious nature of the song.
‘Rise’ is the second song on this album and features Jack’s first guest artist; Cork rapper, Darce. This song is not short of risqué lyrics however, these are almost disguised by the sultry tones of Rua’s voice and the cheerful pop music throughout. The lyrics “So let’s get more acquainted, Let’s get fucking dangerous, Don’t know if we will work out right, But I’ve gotta get my mind over the last one, Baby that’s where you come in, I know we could have a good time” tells us of his intent to have a one night stand to get over a past love. Darce’s rap, although short, compliments Jack’s pop tones perfectly and builds on the sexual tension already present in the song. Darce reiterates the sentiment of the song through the lyrics “Tell from my message, I’m in, All Xs, no strings, no stressin’”.
The third track on this album is entitled ‘Curious’ and explores the theme of sexuality. Jack essentially tells us that it’s ok to be curious about our sexuality and to “Stop paying so much attention to your labels” and that “You don’t have to try to define the way your brain is wired, It’s more fun to colour outside of the lines”, which is both a great yet simplistic way of looking at things. The lyrics to this song are naughty but also playful as they challenge the listener to explore their sexuality because we’re living in ‘“A new world”, as Jack puts it.
Next up is ‘Ego’, which features LOGUOS. The song is a definite dance anthem and without even realising, I was bopping along to the song within seconds of it starting! Jack focuses on the importance of loving yourself as well as someone else. “I used to look for meaning in somebody else, But now it’s in the mirror” and “And I know that I can find it from inside myself” shows that Jack has discovered the self love and confidence that is definitely needed while working in the music industry.
‘Scarlet A’ is the fifth song on this mini album but is Jack Rua’s first release. Despite a number of single releases and the other brilliant tracks on this album, I find myself coming back to ‘Scarlet A’ every time and it’s safe to say that it’s by far my favourite song of Jack’s. Considering this was his debut release, he wasn’t scared to show the world who he is and how he thinks. The song is dangerous and raunchy and looks at the theme of human attraction, even if you are in a relationship. The chorus reminds us that “We’ve all got the capacity to lose sight of what’s real and true” but how easy it can be to stray from that real and true love for the Scarlet A in your life. The beat throughout this song will have you tapping your foot along, whether you agree with the sentiment of the song or not!
‘Reckless Abandon’ takes a slightly different turn from the other songs and shows the Jack’s ability to turn things around, both in his voice and in his lyrics. The song looks at the uncertainty of life and how when you start to think you have it all figured out, your sense of security can get taken away so easily. “We’ve all got a plan” in life but that doesn’t mean we are going to, or that we can follow through on it. Despite the upbeat pop/dance sound to the song, it carries with it lyrics which are slightly darker than Rua’s other tracks. I’m sure this song is something we are all very well able to relate to.
‘Forget Me Not’ is next up and brings the lively atmosphere back to ‘Narcissus’. It is a fast tempo track with electronic synths and lyrics that emphasise how much Jack wants us to “forget me not” (which we are not likely to do after this album!). He speaks of he wants to “put myself in the mind of a stranger” and “put myself deep inside your mind”. It is obvious from this song especially, that Rua draws a lot of his influence from Lady Gaga.
The last song on this album, ‘Reflection’ is vastly different to all of the others and is a very beautiful and very fitting song to finish up with. In contrast with the previous seven tracks, this one is a slow and tender release which is strongly focused on Jack’s voice, rather than the glam electro pop. The song eliminates the glam and concentrates on the gentleness of his voice and the sombre yet engaging lyrics. He reflects on how he doesn’t “like the man in my reflection” and also how he doesn’t like “his size, hair colour or complexion”. We see Jack’s vulnerable side on this track which almost seems out of the blue, given how animated the other songs are. This is a really powerful way to finish the album as it shows us that despite the cheerful and optimistic sounds to the other tracks, everything is not always as it seems.
‘Narcissus’ is a really strong and well written album, with some wonderful guest artists to boot. Jack’s vocals are stunning throughout, whether it’s a lively song or a slow one. He bring us on a very personal journey and is not even remotely afraid to show us who he really is. There is no doubt about it that Jack Rua is paving the way for young, queer pop artists in the Irish music scene.
You can listen to ‘Narcissus’ over on Spotify here.