Close Talker by nelward is a wonderful song, one of the best singles of his extremely diverse 2021. Definitely my favorite.
While nelward didn’t have any new albums or EPs in 2021 or most of 2022, what he did have was a slate of music that pushed hard against the boundaries of his typical style, and against the boundaries of pop music as a whole. And Close Talker by nelward is a prime example of that 2021 greatness.
After the gangbusters release of Eat Your Dreams in late 2020 (my favorite album of that year!), the whole music world sat there waiting eagerly for what would come next. The guy had already transitioned from silly chiptunes to really grooving more mainstream pop music, and now he had released a big old concept album that explored politics, mental health, and balloon animals with incredible production values behind it all. What the heck could be next?
Well, what was next was a bunch of awesome singles, and each one seemed like nelward intentionally dipping into a new genre or subgenre just to see how far he could stretch himself—and his listeners. No matter how far he moved, though, somehow it always felt just right. Not one miss, even athlete which he tragically de-listed for reasons known only to the stars.
I’m very fond of the crunchy screams of TUBE, as well as the ridiculously indescribable nice to meet ya! ~i’m digging a hole~, and especially the viral-ready DVD, but my top of the top had to be, of course, the title of this article.
Close Talker by nelward is just wonderful. As usual, I lack the vocabulary to talk about most of its greatness. The backing track feels like a big step towards mainstream pop stylings, like something you’d find on the radio, although it’s produced with that same bouncy, chiptune-y style that’s consistent through all nelward’s work. His voice is heavily autotuned, something pretty new for him, and it meshes really well with the rest of the music.
The lyrics also get me in a way that nelward’s non-silly songs always do. Yeah, it’s still got some nonsense lines that exist more to let your brain wash over with the words themselves, but the song is also all about something near and dear to my heart—hating the annoying social media trends of today’s youth.
Rather, the song is about the hate, not itself hating. Close Talker by nelward is the story of the narrator, presumably nelward himself, looking at TikTok users, these brand-new influencers who have catapulted themselves into tremendous success, far outstripping anything I could achieve, or even anything nelward has done. Yeah, his song Ghost went viral off a great music video for a great song, but he’s got nothing on the most popular TikTok people.
It’s so easy to feel bitter about stuff like that. Zero production values, people dancing in their bedrooms to copyright-stolen music or just telling short jokes, and suddenly they’re recognized on the street. And those countless millions of kids who try to imitate that success and devote their lives to making skits and dances and viral stunts.
It’s easy to hate it because it’s kind of annoying. I find TikTok relentlessly unappealing, especially the emphasis on dancing or on extremely disposable bite-sized nothingness, and yet… Just like Close Talker says, what’s the big deal? Kids are going to do what kids do, and the platform is just the canvas for them to create.
And that’s what makes the song truly special to me. It’s not an angry song like you’d expect. It’s critical towards the swirling misinformation and instant celebrity that TikTok and other platforms bring, but ultimately it’s a song about accepting creators for who they are. It’s easy to be grumpy about it, but why bother?
Honestly, this song is what made me realize how harshly I had been judging TikTok creators based mostly on the fact that it didn’t appeal to me personally. I’m not even the target demographic, so who am I to judge? I’m a good ten years too late, but I can say with major confidence that I’d have been big on that micro-content train had I been a teen in 2020. nelward, who I think is a couple years older than me and came up in circles of Youtube and indie game communities, is clearly conveying the same exact feelings.
When I was a teen, I wasted my time on the internet making sprite comics and arguing about anime on forums. Gen Z kids today waste time on the internet making 1-minute dance videos and arguing about anime in the comments sections of endlessly looping hot take clips.
There’s no difference, really.
According to MusicBee, the program I use for my downloaded library on desktop (RIP Winamp), Close Talker by nelward is by far my most-played, which is really remarkable for something that only came out a year ago. I’m sure it’ll end up in my top 2 or 3 for this year on Spotify, as well (although nothing’s going to beat Ariel, I feel it). It’s such an easy song to listen to over and over again, with a great beat, and with strangely uplifting lyrics. I wish it had gotten a full music video, but you know what, I’m satisfied with it as-is.
Just like the excellent guitar solo that fades out just as you’re expecting it to go into a new bridge, I’ll end my blog post just by saying, c’mon and feel it.