Salvaging beauty from the wreckage that is boredom is what Maia (who prefers to go by her first name, and is known to her fans as mxmtoon) does best. The artist from Northern California demonstrates this skill on her debut album the masquerade, which was released this past weekend. It's the eighteen–year–old’s memoir about what it’s like to exist in the spaces that today’s teenage girls occupy—high school hallways, therapy sessions, and meme pages—and the sense of displacement she feels.
This theme is not new to the artistry of mxmtoon. Her single, “prom dress,” got over four million views on YouTube, and the music video depicts her feeling regretful and sad in a time meant for celebration. She hides in the bathroom as she sings, “I'm sitting here, crying in my prom dress / I'd be the prom queen if crying was a contest”. It gained traction among fans for vocalizing the sentiment that your high school years aren't always a great experience, despite what's preached by the media.
After all, mxmtoon’s music belongs to those still in grade school, the crowd that watches Tik Toks (the artist herself has over a million followers on the platform). Even her tracklist appeals to social media trends, using lyrics referencing TED Talks. Her songs tackle the fear of missing out, as mxmtoon blatantly repeats the same story about feeling absentminded in a hectic world. Her content is not necessarily original—in fact, it feels like a cross between a teen's Twitter archive and senior year diary.
This lack of defined originality translates to the album’s production as well. Every song blends into each other with little variation, as the overall sound orbits simple guitar chords and basic rhythms. There is an appeal to this for her audience, perhaps, as her music sounds like it could've been produced on Garageband in her bedroom. Other artists such as Clairo and Omar Apollo are able to provide something innovative and unique to this perspective, but mxmtoon doesn't achieve the same intimacy or intrigue.
The album’s highlights lie entirely in its second half, only because it's an acoustic version of the entire first half. “suffice” becomes a gentle ballad about the artist’s repeated feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction with her everyday routine. “late nights” is a rewrite of this narrative, as she croons “Late nights are for lonely people / Lying awake hardly laying peaceful.” There is no deviation from the idea of the melancholic adolescent, and the songwriting is too teenager–ish (and the production too simplistic) to salvage it.
Overall, the masquerade is consistent both thematically and sonically, but that isn't necessarily a great thing. There is no depth to the artist's appeal—she is a teenage girl singing about how isolating it is to be a teenage girl, the same story perpetuated by young adult novels and Netflix originals. This lack of dimension doesn't mean the album isn’t worthy of a listen, it just means you probably won’t be drawn to it after prom night—and high school—ends.