“It seems like you could use a little company from me.” —Dominic Fike, “3 Nights”
Lately, mornings have been getting better. For a long while, the morning was the worst part of the day. Still battling with the sense that it’s better to be asleep than awake, rousing at 6:30 AM has not been up my alley; too quiet, too sterile, and always home to intrusive thoughts and self-deprecation. There’s only so much work you can do, only so much sublimation, before the stillness of the morning catches up to you, and you realize how alone you are. Anxiety festers, for me, in the thin line state of the morning. Lately, though, I’ve found an out.
Every morning, once noise ordinance time has passed, I start my day with Dominic Fike’s Don’t Forget About Me, Demos. The 23-year-old Florida native makes poppy blues, putting a smile on King Krule’s face. Mine as well.
I wish I had some grand music writerly thing to say about Dominic Fike—well, I do—but really what I want to tell everyone is that Dominic Fike makes me happy. Dominic Fike makes me want to sit back with Earl Grey tea, rock my shoulders, and appreciate the sunrise. Dominic Fike makes me grin widely when I am often clocked for being hyper-serious, and that’s not a feeling to ignore. We are tirelessly searching and being fed new music. Everything moves so quickly, you have to have a take. Here’s mine: Dominic Fike brings me unquestionable joy.
There is a lot of upbeat music to be discovered, but there is not a lot of upbeat music that is as witty and self-aware as Dominic Fike’s. He brings an astral, effervescent cool to his music while being simultaneously wounded and emotive. He’s down but not out. And he’s having a blast. Take “Babydoll,” a ballad for lost love. There’s a baked in whimsy, and the song plays like swirling lounge music that demands subsequent spins. There is all the reason to chant “I can’t move on, babydoll” over and over again when the runtime of the track, a brisk two minutes, lends itself to repeat listens. At once, Fike sounds aged and brand new. At a time where music has the tendency to sound copycatish and droll, I see this as a virtue.
His biggest hit, “3 Nights,” is wonderfully catchy, but it’s also playful. The trick is in the structure of the track, which sounds like teasing and pawing at a lover. As Fike slips into a quick-tongued proclamation “Call me what you want, when you want, if you want,” there’s a burst of dopamine sent directly to the listener. The subtle uptick in tempo mimics the high of first locking eyes with your favorite person after time apart; seeing their name on your phone; hearing the sound of their car door close when they’ve arrived. The comparisons go on, but their plentiful existence speaks to the magic Dominic Fike is making with the simplest of ingredients.
It’s the simple “And you can call me names if you call me up” and the silliness of it that makes me smile every morning. His quick hits of rapping have just the right amount of swing to them, making it easy to snap along and swing your arms—yes, the songs feel that classic in approach. Dominic Fike sounds familiar with his gentle flirting with doo-wop structures. The records are built to make you feel free and jolted, absolutely jazzed. Fike takes the skittish and gives it life, damns the connotation, and makes the jittery a romp.
Dominic Fike makes love songs for everyone, but to his credit, they are not needlessly ornate. He is an effortless bluesman for the modern era, finding his footing, and allowing us to witness his growth; there’s even a charm to his project being billed as Demos. These are rough sketches of emotion, little runs of feeling, and the fleeting quality of it all makes it all the more giddy and fun. Demos can be the soundtrack to your summer fling all the same as my early morning, but that universality only comes from Fike’s wit.
I find myself soothed by the goatish near-vibrato on “She Wants My Money.” His raps sound as if they were recorded a room over, while the singing pops through my speakers. That transience is a journey all its own. The song is less so a complete track and more a collection of song ideas, but by the time we get to the guitar riffs, it’s impossible to not trust Fike’s vision. He establishes himself as a fit musician and as we jump into the far more complete and equally impressive “Babydoll,” there’s no question we are under a welcome spell.
Admittedly, the transitions on Demos are rough, abrupt, and potentially jarring. But this, too, makes me happy. We’re sprinting through this project, there’s an immediacy to each song. No song on here is as put together as “3 Nights,” but rather than feel rushed and underthought, Demos presents that joyful blithe tone that comes on the onset of summer. The sense of “I can’t wait for what’s to come” excuses Demos’ choppy framework. Instead, we get a blacktop endless summer dream, with “Westcoast Collective” borrowing riffs and bridges The Ataris might have used to filter their angst and desire. The tongue-in-cheek writing of “Socks,” too, sparks blithe joy.
This energy is not confined to the album, either. “I be wearing my own merch outside, trying to get more famous,” he told The FADER. Per their headline, Fike is ready to be famous, and he is well on his way. His bushy-tailed ethos just ices the cake of his aesthetic. Fike is too excited for his own good, and that reads as endearing across Demos. It makes me excited, too. Dominic Fike does not dispel my anxiety so much as his frenetic and uptempo approach transforms my energy into something positive and intoxicating. In that way, he is an alchemist to me.