Will Jay is a singer, songwriter, producer and dancer and songwriter from California. Will competed on “The Voice of China” season four, was a member of the early 2010s boyband IM5 and was a collaborator with and protégé of star Todrick Hall. Releasing singles, an EP and viral videos, Will Jay has released his highly anticipated first album, “Perfectionist,” after years in the music industry.
Adorned in gold stickers on the album art, Will’s album focuses on the feelings and pressures of constantly striving to reach goals that always feel just out of reach. “Perfectionist” is a deeply emotional and vulnerable look inside the mind and world of Will Jay, a perfect debut album from a well respected yet young artist.
“Lies” is a striking single to start the album. Opening with heavy synth and high pitched repetition of the lyric, “Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lies,” the first track makes it clear that this is no ordinary song from Will and no regular album. Confession, after confession. Will is bearing his soul and exposing his lies. Over silence and deep piano keys, Will sings, “I wrote a song about being broke…I didn’t go to college, what would I know/About student loans,” Pauses in between each phrase emphasizes the importance of each word. It’s as though he’s slowly tiptoeing. An electronic surge for emphasis hits behind the lyric, “Just wanted you all to relate to me.”
The song shifts from this point on. The sound of “Lies” is much darker than his typical tracks – it has an inky feeling that consumes like a shadow and can be imagined like a black snake slithering up someone’s arm.The minor key is dark and the pulse in the background is stunning, “Most of my songs aren’t true/I faked heartbreak I didn’t go through/Even when I told you/I’ve ‘Never Been In Love’/I already was.” Will refers to two of his most popular hits “Never Been In Love” and “Broke,” both of which he explains are about fallacies. At first it sounds like “Lies” is going to be a simple and sweet expression of non-truths, but as the instrumentals and lyrics continue, it sounds as though Will is a villain monologuing in a movie. The piano makes it feel as though he’s stepping closer and closer to you as more and more darkness engulfs the scene. Will likely chose the devious sound to the song because that’s how he sees himself, due to guilt.
“I don’t mean to mislead you, I promise/So uncomfortable being dishonest,” Will sings, a beeping sound towards the end of the verse as gains intensity, “And I think I just realized I would say anything/To come off a little,” the song cuts to silence before Will sings, “more interesting.” The beat then drops, full of guitar and percussion as Will’s voice becomes stronger, “That’s why I tell/Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lies…”
Will’s voice cuts in with distortion, as he makes even more confessions. Singing about his struggles as a musician sets the scene for the entire album. Sounding as though he’s glancing around nervously, Will sings, “I’ll only be happy when I’ve had success…” This is the central theme that the album focuses on. Will confronts the fact he’s selling lies to not only fulfill his desire for success, but to fill his emotional void. He sings, “And I think I just realized I would do anything/To keep hiding the pain I’ve been burying.” Will admits he is lying as a means of protection.
The first song off the project will leave longtime fans of Will Jay with wide eyes and slack jaws. “Lies” is intense and open.
Must Be Nice
“Must Be Nice,” a popular single from the project, is a collection of complaints about his place in life. Almost rapping, Will rants about seeing friends sign to labels, sell out shows and travel the world. Singing for the first time on the project, Will sings, “I just can’t help but feel I pale in comparison/To everything you’ve done…” Going back to rapping Will concludes the chorus, “Must be nice/To have everything that you want in life…” The entire track is a collection of electronic beats and emotional pitfalls, as Will continually compares himself to others.
Sounding like Will is constantly rolling his eyes, “Must Be Nice” is a highly sarcastic and self aware spiteful song.
Married To The Music
“Married To The Music” is a single that opens with Will’s voice layered over itself as he sings, “You sat on our bed/And you said/With a face full of tears/‘You only love your career.’” The entire song is about struggling to focus on anything beyond the world of music. His most stable relationship is with the songs he makes. Will sings, “I love you, believe me…I’m just married to the music.”
Will sings about white lies and cancelled plans. He admits that listening to the notes in his head outweigh the importance of the people around him, “Could you say that again/Wasn’t listening/Don’t take it personally/I heard a new melody…” The beat is simple and repetitive, using electronic and poppy sounds on a song with a very emotional meaning. On “Married to the Music” Will admits that flimsy false statements will keep propping up his relationships as he focuses on his passions, “I’m so sorry, whatever that means/Promise I’ll change, but I said that last week…”
I Need Control
Will opens up about an inability to be vulnerable on “I Need Control.” He sings about struggling to simply speak his mind or share the truth with others, instead opting to overthink and undershare. He sings, “Every time that I try to speak/It feels so calculated/If I say what I really mean/It’s like you see me naked…” The musical composition is very level and constant, lending itself towards the very meaning of the song.
A constant pulsing synth persists throughout the track, like an intrusive thought scratching in the background of a brain. Will sings about compulsitivies, his routine fading off into mumbles, “Always on the edge of my seat/Never the right position/Check the doors are locked, one two three/Flip on and off the switches/Something bad could happen to me…” Such habits are commonly seen in people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which can often lead to a need to be in control.
In the chorus Will uses balanced but separated fragments of lyrics to explain his fear of his own mind and the reaction that others may have, “What will I do/If I lose/My mind/Put someone else/On myself/I’m terrified/These crazy thoughts/They won’t stop/Oh my/I feel the worst in me/Better tread carefully.”
A tender single off the album, “By Now” is the first acoustic track on the album. Will sings about feeling as though he’s yet to reach his goals, despite the constant sacrifices he has made. “Will Jay crafts a song that leaves the listener concerned for Will, and pondering their complacency in encouraging the exhaustion of their favorite musicians. He opens up about burnout and making upsetting decisions for the sake of a career that hasn’t turned out the way he wanted. He reveals hardships and hurt often hidden by artists, sharing that despite all he has done, there is a lack of satisfaction and traces of both personal and professional regret that plague him. “By Now” is a painful exploration of expectations and dreams.” (Read more here.)
The perfect song to follow “By Now,” which a song about feeling burned out, “Burned Out” is a quick paced illustration of the constant work that is far too familiar to those who work in music. Will sings, “Fear of missing out is my main motivation/Staying booked and busy never take a vacation.” Will sings about neglecting things like food, and focusing on meetings and music. Will sings, “I work nine to five to nine/Shouldn’t I be working all the time,” his voice is warped by electronic distortion as he sings like he’s fading away, “I’m burned out.” A crashing symbol begins the chorus as keyboard music bounces beyond Will’s vocals, “Always onto the next/Wake up already stressed/And I can sleep in when I’m dead…Maybe the grind is how I’m wired/But I’m burned out.” A pause after the chorus leaves room for Will to speak, “I didn’t say stop.” He’s pointing out the break in the song, but the slightly humorous interjection can also refer to the fact he’s constantly on the go but still unable to say stop.
Will sings about leaving friends, his bed and even brushing his teeth behind. Every second of his day and life is focused on and dedicated to his music, “But rather take care of business than take care of myself/I can’t help but feel it’s all for nothing…” After the chorus repeats Will simply states, “Um, I don’t really feel like writing a bridge.” This plays on the fact that burn out makes you feel frustrated and disinterested in previous areas of interest.
“Burned Out” is a fast-paced song that allows the listener to imagine Will darting in and out of buildings and meetings, like a cartoon character with sheet music and coffee spilling out of his hands. “Burned Out” is an anthem for the overworked.
Tackling body image is a sensitive topic, and a taboo one for many. Dave Chawner of British GQ wrote, “Men have historically been conditioned to suppress how they feel about their body, but as our society gets better at dealing with mental health, we need to make sure that men’s body image isn’t left out of the conversation.” On the song “Run,” Will opens up about physical struggles and anxieties that weigh on him, just the same as the emotional ones listed on the album.
Will voices the pain that many who struggle with eating disorders feel, using gentle yet electronic instrumentals. A constant beat pounds in the background, like sneakers slamming against the ground while running. He sings, “I need to look/A certain way… I break my back With heavy weights…Who’d want me if I’m out of shape?
In the pre-chorus Will sings, “I thought being a man/Was determined by a scale of how attractive I am/Staring at the people’s bodies/Like they’re my competition/How can wanting to be healthy be an addiction?” Will had previously confronted the feeling of being competitive and “less mascultuine” than other men, in his popular songs “Leading Man” and “Gangsta,” in which he sang, “Don’t talk with your hands/Your mannerisms/Should be more like a man’s.”
Will sings about refusing to stop, even when he’s harming himself, using the popular phrase “beauty is pain.” No matter the cost, he keeps going, “Heartbeat racing, still I don’t stop/I just keep run-run-running.” The song concludes with Will admitting to himself that if he continues to hold himself to impossible standards, he’s to work until there’s nothing left.
I Don’t Want To Die
Acoustic guitar begins the track as Will immediately launches into the story, “A guy I went to school with got hit by a car yesterday/We weren’t even friends but it still hit me in the same way/And it had me thinking if that night I’d walked the same street/It could’ve been me, that could’ve been me.”
Will launches into the details that haunt him about the story. Full of guitar, pulsating electronic background and medical machine beeps, “I Don’t Want To Die” is a single that centers around Will lying awake at night contemplating his own morality, struggling to overcome the anxieties regarding death. Will sings, “You just never know when you’re gonna go/I’m scared that my time will come/And there’ll be so much that I still haven’t done…”
Talking To Myself
“Talking To Myself” is all about giving someone else advice that you actually needed to hear. Will has been open about feelings of insecurity, and often people who don’t trust themselves will project their advice onto others so that they can give themselves then help they need. Gentle electronic beats back Will as he sings about how he’s “afraid to tell anyone” that he’s also struggling.
The beat is infectious, despite the harsh meaning of the track, especially as Will sings the chorus, “I’m talking to myself…Even though you’re someone else…Saying everything/I need to hear/And hoping that it helps…”
“Talking to Myself” is a song for “the therapist friends” of the world.
Writing A Song Pt. 1
The opening audio of a rising synth shifts from ear to ear for those listening on headphones, which is a disorienting and immersive experience. This pairs excellently with the opening lyric, “Back of my head, I feel a dull ache.” All of “Writing A Song Pt. 1” fits with the tracks that follow, each exactly one minute long. Will opens up about struggling to successfully write a song. Will sings to the listeners, “Maybe I, maybe I/Will never feel I got it right…I’ll let you decide…”
A jolting ending to the song, Will takes a sharp moment of introspection, “I forget to live a life/Live a life/Worth writing about.”
Writing A Song Pt. 2
Will’s classical skill is exemplified on “Writing A Song Pt. 2,” as the introductory instrumentals almost align with a solfege vocal scale. Will refers to his songs like a lover on this song, “You always come/In the moment when I least expect you to/And I find a way/To slip away From everyone/Just to have fifteen minutes alone with you.” Will speaks of taking its hand to dance, lost in a world only they understand. One can imagine Will gracefully floating and spinning around a ballroom with a figure, lost to all others on a cloud of musical notes. Will’s delight with music explains the many other songs on “Perfectionist” about sacrificing everything else for and isolating himself with his craft. If music makes you feel so splendid, why would you not want to focus every bit of your attention on it?
If this was a film, music would be the manic pixie dream girl who whisks away the male protagonist and introduces him to a new world of unexpected joy.
Writing A Song Pt. 3
Blending perfectly with the final lyric of the previous track, “Writing A Song Pt. 3” is the final track in the trilogy of Will’s process. Will concluded “Pt. 2” by singing, “Waking up alone,” and he begins the third part by singing, “Just like that/You’re gone/Never last for long.”
Once again singing to his music, “Writing A Song Pt. 3,” has a much grittier sound than the other two parts, full of climbing electric guitar. Almost mechanic, slightly like musical steampunk, Will exposes the darker side to making music and the lows that follow the highs, “Please come back and give me something good tomorrow/Don’t make me chase you to the bottom of a bottle.”
Initially titled “Maybe I,” “The Next Idea” and “Just Like That,” the three instalments work as one single song to offer listeners a peek inside the process that Will follows while writing his music. Part one confronts feelings of inadequacy, part two illustrates the pure bliss of successfully expressing yourself and part three delves into the darkness of failures. Making music is so deeply personal to Will Jay that he went on to practically write an entire album about it, so it’s only right to explain the process that consumes so much of his life, when creating a soul bearing album.
The album’s title track is also its final, giving the listeners complete closure. Will’s voice is soft on the final song, layered on top of itself, “I’ve spent my whole life trying to be perfect…I felt entitled to success cause I deserved it/Worked harder than anyone else/That’s what I kept telling myself…” Will’s voice increased in volume, his vocals always effortless, but his voice sounding as though he may cry, “I put so much pressure on/And thought by now I’d be a diamond.” Lyrical excellency is the name of the game on “Perfectionist.”
The vocals bounce between ear to ear, a testament to the production value of the project. Acoustic guitar is strummed as Will sings, “I-I-I-I/I’ve had enough/I-I-I-I I’m good enough.” This is Will Jay releasing each song from his grasp and releasing himself from his own control. He calls back on the songs of the project, like the album is winding down. “Like d*mn” is from “Must Be Nice.” “Just wanted you all to relate to me” is from “Lies.” “I just can’t help but feel I” is from “Must Be Nice.” “Always onto the next” is from “Burned Out.” “Run-running” is from “Run.” “I don’t know if I can do this” is from “Married To The Music” “I’m terrified” is from “I Need Control” “Maybe I, maybe I” is from “Writing A Song Pt. 1” “Talking to myself” is from “Talking to Myself.”
The background audio is a rising sound, overtaking Will as he sings, no longer referencing himself, “Loosen up a little bit/It’s never been that serious/Try to have some fun with it/Don’t be such a,” the rising audio that crescendoed until it was muffling Will’s words has cut out. Will sings the final line of the album over silence, “Perfectionist.” The way his voice fades in and out makes it sound as the lyrics are memories floating away. Next time he will find more joy and be less intense. Will has been working nonstop for 19 years and this is him freeing himself from this quest and project.
“Perfectionist” is Will Jay flicking the light off in the studio.
You can stream “Perfectionist” everywhere now!