On his latest album, Marlon Williams is still a loveable weirdo—but he’s finally growing up.
My Boy, the third album by Marlon Williams, paints a very different sonic landscape than its predecessors. Gone is the lovesick sap that was Marlon; in his place stands a man not quite wise yet, but getting there.
Starting out strong with the title track, ‘My Boy’ is a stunner for summer. Everything about this song feels so cheerful and lighthearted, it’s kinda cheesy (in a good way). A gentle Māori strum (Marlon’s words) of an acoustic guitar grounds the song, with Marlon’s coos of ‘doos’ and ‘woos’ popping up throughout. It makes for blissed out listening.
On my first playthrough, I jumped onto Google and searched “Marlon Williams bisexual?”. With lyrics like “He don’t suffer my mistakes, I love him / He’s why I’m what I am / nothing can touch my boy”, could you blame me? Yes, it seems, you can. When you give it another listen though, everything becomes clear: he’s talking about that love you feel for your best mate, your dad, your brother. You know, those platonic relationships between guys that get people feeling a bit toxically masculine. And Marlon sings about these bonds so innocently, with an honest earnestness that it doesn’t feel revolutionary—it’s just a guy, singing about loving his boy (friends). But a small revolution it still is, made better by the fact it’s just a groovy song.
Rediscovering identity, or at least, exploring one’s identity and how that relates with the wider world reigns as a consistent theme throughout. Marlon continues this foray with ‘My Heart The Wormhole’. It’s the most chaotic song of the album that’s full of silences breaking up raucous, almost Wild-West-sounding instrumental. ‘Wormhole’ plays out that awkward dynamic one has with their emotionally-distant Dad: “‘Don’t you dare speak to your father that way’ That’s what you say”, Marlon laments, “I’m still a boy and you’re still a king”.
Not all songs on My Boy are deep—some are just bangers for the sake of being bangers. The hypnotic ‘River Rival’ is a synth-driven grower not a shower. You can’t help but get a bit mental as the tune builds towards a final meltdown of vocals and keys. ‘Thinking of Nina’ is probably the most sensual the album gets. You’re instantly hooked with hints of 80s nostalgia, and a song that wouldn’t seem out of place on an A-ha album. And Marlon really hits it out of the park with ‘Don’t Go Back’, a spiritual successor to ‘Party Boy’ from his second album. There are owl noises and foreboding whisper-singing of party anxiety, spun together as a cautionary tale of dark nights on the rark. Point taken, Mr Williams.
Some songs don’t quite hit the mark though. ‘Soft boys make the grade’ is an introspective lament on masculinity and a critique of the modern pursuit of love, with Marlon impassioned and showing off his rather impressive vocal abilities. The lyrics, unfortunately, may need an upgrade. They come off a bit too whimsical and maybe for a Gen-Z listener, cringey. “Coulda wrote it all down in a letter; But here I am in your DMs”—just the mention of social media, unironically, cannot be taken seriously. ‘Morning Crystals’ has an old-timey quality to it and a bit of mania thrown in. Resuscitating old country music tastes and interspersing upbeat, almost luau guitar at random times, ‘Morning Crystals’ throw you a bit off your guard with the tonal shifts. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as charming as it thinks it is.
It may not soar to the heights of Make Way For Love, but My Boy is full of gems for old and new listeners alike. Marlon Williams set out to reinvent new sounds and explore new ideas, and for that it’s worth a listen.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY MARLON WILLIAMS