Passion-fueled and unapologetic, JJ Wilde’s debut album ‘Ruthless’ establishes the Canadian talent as a true force of nature in the modern rock canon.
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Ontario’s JJ Wilde is an exhilarating fresh voice on rock’s new frontier.
Since crashing down on our ears in early 2019 with the unapologetic “Wired,” the 28-year-old singer/songwriter has unleashed a steady rush of compelling electric guitar-driven material full of emotion, conviction, and above all else, energy. Last year’s introductory four-track Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands EP hit hard and left a lasting mark: “Its highs are energizing; its lows are reassuring; and throughout, we are gifted with the incredible talents of JJ Wilde, whose electric presence transfers over to dynamic vocals and powerfully expressive guitar work,” Atwood Magazine wrote last year.
If Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands was the appetizer, then Ruthless is the full meal. Out June 12 via Black Box Recordings / BMG, JJ Wilde’s debut album was released into a world in turmoil. From the revitalized strength and activism of the Black Lives Matter movement, to the continuing (and in many parts of the globe, worsening) COVID-19 global pandemic, this moment in history will be remembered as one of chaos, turbulence… and hopefully, progress. Wilde had no way of knowing just what life would look like when Ruthless dropped, and she surely has no intention of being the loudest voice in this very crowded room – and yet, her invigorating record is a refreshing soundtrack to 2020’s fervor and upheaval.
Wanna be reckless, wanna be ready
I don’t wanna make it out alive
Wanna be forward, making me nervous
Making me wanna build it up in time, in time
I don’t wanna make it out alive, alive
What’s the use in staying the same
– “Cold Shoulder,” JJ Wilde
A very personal album telling her story and speaking to several intensely intimate, coming-of-age experiences, Ruthless gives a vessel to our restlessness and a voice to our frustrations. It is ready to carry our screams and shoulder our tears; to embrace us for who we are and get us where we need to be. That much is made clear from the very start: Wilde’s explosive album opener “Knees” bursts out of the gates with heavy strokes and a tenacious screamed chorus: “I don’t want to love you, but I do,” she rises. “I don’t want to need you, cut you loose. I don’t want you when you’re down on your knees. I don’t want you when you’re hard to please.” Massive guitars surround her, but they could never drown her out – and that is perhaps the best way for us to not only appreciate JJ Wilde and her music, but also her project as a whole: No matter why you’re shouting, it’s valid; don’t let the outside noises drown you out.
“This album has felt like a long time coming, and no time at all” Wilde shared upon her album’s release earlier this month. ”Most of the inspiration for the album came from an apartment I lived in two years before I started this journey. I was in a dark place, and was very unsure of where my life was going. Almost 4 years later, with countless shows, tours, traveling, writing sessions, I now feel like this album is the complete first draft of an inside look into my world. My journey to get here, relationships beginning and ending, friendships, jobs, you name it. It been a wild ride, and I’m excited to finally be able to share it.”
Composed of eleven total tracks, Ruthless includes Wilde’s entire first EP, more recent singles “Home,” “Trouble,” “Funeral for a Lover,” and “Cold Shoulder,” and a handful of unheard tracks full of spirited dynamism and untethered authenticity like the raw “Breakfast in Bed” and the engulfing, overwhelming and impassioned finale “Feelings.” Of the latter: If you take the turbulence of the album’s first ten songs and cook them in an oven overnight, you’d end up with the especially uninhibited power and finesse of “Feelings.” But it takes an album’s worth of listening material to get there, and it’s the perfect way to cap off this exciting first chapter.
JJ Wilde’s music is inherently loud, feverish, and insatiable, but it lacks the selfish quality often associated with these characteristics; her lyrics, while personal, revolve not around her alone, but around life experiences that all of us can relate to – whether it’s the need to soldier on in “State of Mind,” or the hopelessness of a lover in pain that aches throughout “Funeral for a Lover.” “This song was a way of me letting go of the guilt of not being able to make someone see the beauty in the world and life the way I do… understanding that sometimes, stepping back is a way of helping as well,” Wilde shared with us earlier this year, opening up about her most vulnerable and intimate work yet.
Ruthless really is a Wilde ride.
It’s the artist’s most comprehensive and expansive offering to date, and one that we can keep coming back to in times of strife and serenity; whether we need to blow off some steam or just sit with some spine-chilling vocals and fervent melodies, JJ Wilde will be there for us. Experience the full record via the below stream, and peek inside JJ Wilde’s Ruthless with Atwood Magazine as the artist goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her debut album!
Stream: ‘Ruthless’ – JJ Wilde
:: Inside Ruthless ::
This song was a break-up song originally, like many on this album actually, they start as break-up songs and take on a new life. It was the end of a relationship but the beginning of me realizing I was better off without them. That time between knowing the relationship is over, and convincing yourself to let go of them and leave the love behind. It was a final door closed, to a chapter I was happy to leave behind. There is a certain empowerment when you say your final goodbye to a toxic person, and this song is just that.
The Rush has a very interesting beginning. I used to be a bartender and server, and so one morning, following a night out after work with my bartending/serving friends, I woke up late for work and hungover. I stumbled out of bed, and grabbed my guitar. I slowly mumbled :”woke up this morning in a panic, I had my red dress on again”. From there, my producer Frederik Thaee brought up the voice note when we were in studio, and thought “there’s something here”. He started playing a chugging guitar riff, and within an hour or so we wrote the rest of the song! It all happened very organically.
Wired came from a dark place. I wrote it when I was living in a sketchy apartment I hated, working three jobs and doing music on the side. I was in a dark place. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working, but had no idea where to go or how to change my situation. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. There was nothing motivating me, and I just felt like a hamster on a wheel. This song is all about the frustrations I was feeling, anger, sadness, loss of control. It was infuriating. I remember thinking to myself, this is not the life I imagined for myself, and I’m not accepting it anymore.
Breakfast in Bed
Breakfast in Bed came to be when I was on a writing trip in L.A, literally eating my breakfast in bed one morning topless. It was a funny moment, a moment where my writing style changed. Before this song, I would take pieces of songs and bring them to my producer and build them out together. But this song, on the morning of a session, I was in my AirBnB and wrote it out just for fun as it came to me. There was no intention of what it was going to be, just a melody and lyrics. From then on I would take more complete songs to Fred and we would build them out instrumentally together.
Gave It All
I wrote this song when I was 16. It too started as a breakup song that I wrote before the relationship was over. And like others, eventually it became something else. For me this song is more about loosing yourself in something, whether its a job you think you want, a relationship, friendship, something that your set onion your head, but end up loosing little bits of yourself and what makes you happy along the way, till you are more of a shell of yourself then the real thing, And its only after you discover that, that you can piece back yourself back together. Instrumentally this was one of my favourite songs to do in studio.
State of Mind
This song also has a lot to do about realization. This whole album is a very reflective piece. State of mind is a song that I wrote with Frederik and Viktoria Hansen. This song captures the understanding that in life there will be mistakes, fuck ups, wrong turns, and regrets. But if you view those things as a lesson rather than a regret, and learn to accept yourself for your flaws, you can eventually work on them and learn from those mistakes. In the song I talk about making the same mistake over and over, which is something very true in my life. Eventually I learn, but only on about the third time. This song is a celebration of acceptance, for better or worse.
Home is a song about touring life. Being gone for months at a time is a strange thing at first. Its easy to worry about being forgotten, that life goes on whether your there or not. Its also about finding a sense of home whenever you go. On tour there’s little things I do to make whenever were staying feel like it has some sense of home, whether that’s cooking the band dinner, having movies nights, etc. This song originally had a very southern rock style to it. Fred and I started this song, and hit a wall. We left it for about a month or so, and when we came back with fresh ears, it was easy to finish. Its still one of my favourite songs to play acoustically.
Funeral for a Lover
This song is very close to my heart. It comes from the personal experience of being in a relationship with someone who struggled terribly with mental health. It was a very difficult thing, being someone who is usually has a pretty positive outlook, to try and explain how I see the world, and not being able to make him understand, or see things the same. I felt like I had failed him because I was unable to bring him up out of his darkness. To be someones only source of light is unhealthy, and at the time I only wanted what was best for him, and couldn’t see anything else. This song is about more than just my personal experience though. It’s about the conversation surrounding mental health. The video for this song is very vulnerable, almost uncomfortable. And that’s what I wanted. I want people to feel uncomfortable, and then talk about it. I wanted this song to bring to life a conversation that should be happening all the time, not just once a year. Mental health is a serious thing, it does exist, and it needs to be an open topic of conversation for things to change.
This song had many forms before we landed on the final. It started me writing it in my kitchen, a slow grungy cry of desperation. “Wanna be reckless, wanna be ready”.. it was all me crying out for what I wanted. When I brought it to Fred, we started outgoing that route of having it be slow and angsty. But we hit a wall, something didn’t quite fit. So like others we took some time and let it rest. When we came back and Fred suggested a tempo change, I originally was not happy about it. I stubbornly wanted the song to be the way I wrote it. But once we tried it, the song instantly took on a new life. It went from a desperate cry to an empowered yell. Lyrically screaming out what I wanted, and not being afraid to take it.
This song was from my first writing trip to L.A. There was a lot of excitement around that trip, I felt like I was living out one of my dreams, and I was! I worked with a writing/ producing couple Lisa and Joey, which was my first attempt at co-writing. At first it was strange to have someone else’s opinion on my songs but quickly it became relaxed, fun, and easy to work with them. Trouble started as a slinky, creeping bass line. When joey started to play, I spit out almost all of the lyrics instantly. It was to this day one of the quickest written songs I’ve done.
This song came to be when I was in a two week isolation of writing. (Before quarantine was a thing). I had taken two weeks to stay in my house, not see anyone or go anywhere, and write all day and all night, to see what would come out of it. Around the end of the two weeks, I felt like I was starting to go crazy. My moods would go sky high thinking I just created a masterpiece, to absolutely feeling like everything I wrote was a complete disaster. Feelings was a mumbled voice note that I whispered into my phone as I starred off aimlessly thinking “what the hell am I doing”. When I took it to Fred, he immediately agreed there was something creepy there, but not sure what. I had the most fun with this song in studio. We had no reservations of how it was going to sound and what we were trying to achieve besides it being as weird as possible. We were free to be as odd and creative as we wanted, and in turn it became one of my favourite songs.
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📸 © Jonathan Weiner
:: Stream JJ Wilde ::