Review: Ruel sparks new era with single ‘Growing Up Is ___’

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Caleb Audia

In a graphic made by multimedia director and senior Caleb Audia, an edited version of the “Growing Up Is ___” album cover is shown. Featured on the edited work are the multiple words Ruel described growing up as in his first YouTube trailer for the track. “If Ruel’s upcoming debut, full-length album, is anything like ‘Growing Up Is ___,’ then I can confidently say that no one will be disappointed,” Audia said.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ever since his first release in 2017, titled “Golden Years,” Ruel has been inching to the spotlight in the underground indie-pop artist genre. Ruel’s previous 5-track extended play, “Bright Lights, Red Eyes,” became available for listeners Oct. 23, 2020.

Since then, fans have been left out of new music and tours until Nov. 24, when Ruel uploaded the cover art to an upcoming single titled “Growing Up Is ___.” The post received over 150,000 likes within 48 hours of publication, with Ruel continuing to promote the upcoming single.

Ruel released three different teasers to the upcoming track through YouTube Shorts, ultimately announcing the release date as Wednesday, Dec. 10. The track was accompanied by a full live video, which was a one-shot performance of the track by Ruel.

Listed below, you can find each of the reviewers’ thoughts on the new track, and what’s to come for the next Ruel era.

Caleb’s Review: 10/10

Since starting my admiration for Ruel in 2017 from his “Golden Years” drop, I was extremely excited when I heard that Ruel was coming back with a new single. Not only was a new track exciting, but the cover art looked very promising. I had very high hopes for the track from the start.

The teasers that Ruel offered gave excitement to the days leading up to the release, and I found myself constantly singing the lyrics to each of the 15-30 second clips.

On the release day, Dec. 8, I got in the car and blasted “Growing Up Is ___” as loud as I could. I wanted to hear everything from the background instruments to Ruel’s backing vocals and all of the elements that typically make a Ruel track obsessive. I was instantly impressed.

On my first listen, I felt as if something was missing. But upon my second listen, I completely disagreed. “Growing Up Is ___” pushes to my favorite song ever, and not just by Ruel. The track takes on a reflective tone by Ruel, looking back on his past and experiences.

“Growing up is strange, get too close, push away / thinking you would do the same / no regrets, no mistakes / growing up is strange when the one who’s to blame / is lookin’ at the mirror, wish that you were here” Ruel belts over the drum and guitar filled chorus.

Personally, I think the lyrics are relatable to almost any teenager, or young adult, listening, and this is something that Ruel does extremely well. I can’t even think of a track by Ruel that’s not relatable, and “Growing Up Is ___” remains no exception.

I do have to say, however, that some of the lyrics caught me off guard. For example, in the pre-chorus, Ruel sings “Growing up is weird, sleep with friends, break a heart / question everything you thought,” and while this line is pertaining to him and his experiences, it’s not a topic that Ruel’s touched on in the past, and remained my only surprise of the track.

The catchy lyrics with the amazingly-done production all contribute to making this track an amazing work of art. If Ruel’s upcoming debut full-length album is anything like “Growing Up Is ___,” then I can confidently say that no one will be disappointed. I just wish the track had a different title.

Amanda’s Review: 8/10

I seriously love this song. Caleb is actually the one who got me into Ruel, and I’m glad he did because I’m obsessed. At first listen, I called this song my favorite of his, but as the novelty has worn off, I’ll have to call it only one of my favorites – with his earlier songs, “Dazed and Confused” and “Real Thing,” reigning as his best.

The lowest point of the song has to be the first few seconds. The opening beat is slightly underwhelming, and not something that would entice me to listen to the song if it played on the radio or somewhere else. However, when the beat drops and he starts to sing, it gets so much better.

I love every other part of the song, especially the pre-chorus. I love the high notes in it and it’s a great connection between the verse and the chorus.

The live performance that was released with the song was also really cool. It wasn’t anything crazy, but I loved the orange lights that went along with it. With the lights, the video perfectly matches the album cover which completes the overall aesthetic of the song.

While the song is amazing, I’m not super happy with the title. The underscore feels weird to me, and I would have rather the song be called “Growing Up Is” instead.

Gabby’s Review: 9/10

I really enjoyed this song. I’ve been looking forward to its release, since it was the first song of Ruel’s that he’s come out with since I started listening to him. “Growing Up Is ___” is one of those singles that you can just have on repeat, and you’ll never get bored of it. Caleb is also the one who introduced me to Ruel, and I’m really glad he did, because I have found some really good songs out of an artist that I would have otherwise probably never invested any time into.

The only reason I’m not giving “Growing Up Is ___” a solid 10/10 is because I like some of Ruel’s other songs better, specifically “Dazed and Confused.” It was the first song I listened to of Ruel’s, and after that first experience of hearing it, I can’t really call anything else my favorite.

“Real Thing,” “Courage” and “Unsaid,” are also some of my favorites, but I’d put “Growing Up Is ___” right up there with those three. I can’t help but think of it as a summer song, one where you just blast it on full volume in the car.

My only other complaint would be that the song just seems like it’s missing something if you’re not listening to it with its volume all the way up. I think that lost piece for me is somewhere in the chorus – which I did love – but I just wish I had felt more impacted by it, like I have in some of Ruel’s other songs. Nevertheless, the song’s still a great serotonin-booster.

Overall, the new single’s energy was great, and I can’t wait to see what Ruel has in store for us next. For now, I’ll keep “Growing Up Is ___” happily saved in my playlist.

Alyssa’s Review: 8/10

I’ve been listening to Ruel for about two or three years now, and he never disappoints. My personal favorite from him is “Painkiller,” his most popular song, or “Face To Face,” but “Growing Up Is __”  has definitely taken its place as third on the podium, just with some concerns.

The beginning reminds me of Post Malone’s hit “Circles,” but it’s not a bad start. It could’ve been a little stronger if it hadn’t been so long. Even at the start, I could tell this was going to be a great track. It’s obvious why he put this song first, as a single, in front of another piece of work – hopefully an album.

The music is absolutely super catchy, and will be stuck in your head after a few listens, in a good way. I really love the meaning behind the lyrics, looking at the people you grew up with and questoning how you guys have grown apart and grown as people, saying “Now you’re back in town, no, I can’t come around / Are we better without the what ifs and doubts / Is this it?”

I have to agree with Amanda with the title, it’s not a super powerful title in my opinion. It would fit better as an album title, it’s too broad for just this single.

Ruel’s vocals in the chorus build well on the melody, and the harmonies bring out a new and exciting part of the song out to listeners. I definetly was left wanting more, and I’m excited to see the future of Ruel’s music. I’m beyond positive that this song will stay as one of my liked songs, and on repeat in my head.

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