Lauv broke through in the late 2010s with “I Like Me Better,” a crushed-out electropop song with spare instrumentation and a hushed vocal that shrouded his confessions of vulnerability in extreme-close-up intimacy. Since the release of that single, the singer-songwriter—real name Ari Leff—has established himself as a front-line reporter for emotional twentysomethings, chronicling his loves, losses, drugs, and dreams.
All 4 Nothing, Lauv’s second album, continues that path with tracks that hunger for a return to childlike wonder while being steeped in the doings of adulthood. Lauv has a pliable voice with an airy upper register, as well as an attention to detail in his lyrics that ranges from painstaking to “whatever.” The combination is a potent one with such fraught material, making the 30-ish minutes of All 4 Nothing a high-octane dose of emotion cushioned by pleasant, if sometimes a bit anonymous, pop.
Lauv’s genre-agnostic approach to music means that All 4 Nothing spans a lot of different styles while still being grounded in his larger-than-life feelings. “Better Than This” is plush pop-R&B, Lauv playing out a relationship’s entire boom-to-bust trajectory in his head over an insistent beat; “I (Don’t) Have A Problem” explodes into a full-on wailer at the end, with massive riffs framing Lauv’s reckoning with an addiction. The gently percolating beat, gummy synths, and Newer Romantic vocals on “Kids Are Born Stars” signal that British neurotics The 1975 have crossed over into influential-band territory, while “Summer Nights” gasses up a swaying piano ballad enough for it to transform into a peppy 2-step track, an echo of the way Lauv is trying to rekindle bygone good times with an ex.
Across All 4 Nothing, Lauv explores the contrast between happy pop and lyrics that explore the psyche’s depths. The bummer chronicle “Bad Trip” has a cheery handclaps-and-strumming bed but pivots on the repeated plea “Don’t let me die in the dark,” while the guy-with-guitar statement of self “Hey Ari” has a brave-face outro in which Lauv answers the question “are you really happy?” with “Yeah for sure” sung over and over again, with just enough intensity to goad the listener into wondering if he’s being fully truthful—and knowing deep down that he absolutely isn’t.
Lauv has ridden the sad-pop-song wave of the last decade to great success—as he notes on the opening track “26,” he “made a couple songs and they got big.” But that material fulfillment left him feeling longing in other areas of his life, and on All 4 Nothing he chronicles his attempts to fill those voids with a gimlet eye turned inward.