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The Importance of Being Earnest: Adam Melchor Charms at the Royale

Written by Poppy Livingstone

February 15, 2023

Photography by Ruofei Shang

In the chorus of “Cry,” Adam Melchor repeats the line “I don’t wanna cry in front of you” in a lush falsetto. The track excavates an all-too-familiar product of the human condition: not being able to be vulnerable in front of those that you love. Based on the song’s lyrics alone, you might expect a degree of restraint from its songwriter, but Melchor’s intimate performance at the Royale last Thursday beautifully encapsulated the openness and emotion that characterizes his work.

Since his first release in 2017, Melchor has exhibited a knack for writing lyrics as deeply personal as they are achingly universal. His debut album, Here Goes Nothing!, is certainly no exception. Aptly described by Melchor as a “revolving door of emotions,” the 2022 album tracks the peaks and valleys of a long-distance relationship with soaring sensitivity. There are songs for the early, ecstatic days of infatuation; for the dizzying uncertainty of throwing caution to the wind; for playing with fire; for getting burnt. Though its central relationship is ultimately doomed, it would be unfair to call Here Goes Nothing! a breakup album. Melchor is as interested in healing as he is in heartbreak: catharsis, it seems, is the name of the game.

At the tail end of his performance, Melchor played “Rest of My Night,” a heart-rending track born of a voice memo he recorded on tour. Its lyrics, which delve to the depths of his confessional style, are packed with regret (asking “Why am I scared of the people that love me / When it’s me who pushed them aside?” in the second verse). Yet on stage at the Royale, Melchor delivered this ballad with triumph and a sheepish smile. This moment encapsulated the dual edges of Melchor’s craft. There’s pain and there’s confusion, his lyrics say, but there’s joy and growth too.

In an era where indie music is dominated by the mournful stylings of Phoebe Bridgers, Lizzy McAlpine, and Black Country, New Road, it’s unsurprising that Melchor has attracted such a devout following. But unlike the albums he dove into while concocting his own (the debuts of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and Bridgers were played on repeat during his tour), his lyrics are delivered with sincere amusement. At his late-night show, he punctuated his most melancholic ballads with jokes about long-distance relationships, banter with the packed crowd, and frequent, genuine expressions of gratitude to his fans. “I sound like a broken record,” he said at one point, “but I’ll keep saying thank you over and over again.”

In interviews, Melchor often fondly describes his fanbase as “a bunch of bullies,” their blunt honesty matching his own. As they tearfully, gleefully sang along to his breakout song “Real Estate” during his encore, it was evident that Melchor’s fans are like him in more ways than one. Through his effusive sincerity, Melchor has curated a culture of confession and vulnerability, one that’s unafraid to reach the farthest edges of emotion. In the chorus of “Touch and Go,” Melchor prophesied the effects of his music: “it’s a miracle,” as he says, “to let the tears run with a smile.”

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